Bassetlaw council leader criticises waterways charity over flooding

The leader of Bassetlaw District Council has said the flooding in Worksop could brought much less devastation if the organisation responsible for managing Britain's waterways had taken necessary action.

By Ed Dingwall
Friday, 15th November 2019, 6:36 pm
Updated Friday, 15th November 2019, 6:50 pm
Floodwater has devastated homes and businesses in Worksop over the past week.
Floodwater has devastated homes and businesses in Worksop over the past week.

Councillor Simon Greaves believes the Canal & River Trust (CRT) should have opened a sluice gate near the Canch as soon as the threat became apparent on November 7.

Opening the gate would have allowed water to flow out of the River Ryton at Mill Pond into a channel which continues past the Priory Church and Canch Park, helping to limit the build-up of water in the town centre.

Coun Greaves said: "The position of the CRT was that they were concerned about the impact of that water downstream if it flowed into the Chesterfield canal.

Councillor Simon Greaves says the impact of the heavy rainfall could have been mitigated had the Canal & River Trust acted differently.

"I think they need new maps. I have physically seen the water flow from Mill Pond all the way down and back into the Ryton. That drainage channel has been there longer than anyone can remember."

He added: "I can tell the CRT has been incredibly stretched, and I've no misgivings about their people on the ground at all. I have issues with this particular decision, which was made far too late.

"Local residents were raising it with me from very early on. I suspect the CRT were looking at a part of the world which they were not as familiar with as they really should be."

The sluice gate was eventually opened by the Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue staff, and has remained open for seven days as further heavy rain arrived on Thursday, November 14.

The flooding was caused by the overflow of the river Ryton.

Coun Greaves said: "When the river level rose again and the Environment Agency issued an alert, the gate remained open and helped channel water through the town in the way it is designed to do.

"That decision could have been made early on last week. Action should have been taken, and it sadly wasn't. There was opportunity to mitigate this crisis. Now the CRT appears to be putting forward different arguments as to why that didn't happen."

Responding to the criticism, a CRT spokesperson said: "The leader of Bassetlaw District Council is wrong to suggest that we didn’t step up to respond.

"The trust was in liaison with the Environment Agency throughout and our staff have worked admirably at numerous locations across the region to deal with incidents, including through the night and alongside the emergency services in many cases.

The Canal & River Trust said staff had warned Bassetlaw District Council that this building, which houses a sluice gate, was unsafe to enter.

"Specifically at Worksop, the sluice in question is not a drainage sluice, but a sluice that feeds the Chesterfield Canal.

"Definitively, it would not have alleviated the flooding in the town. The water would have stayed in the area as the feeder, canal and river all run in parallel a very short distance apart."

They added: "Separately, the sluice gate is in a council-owned derelict building deemed to be unsafe and therefore dangerous to enter.

"One of the large roof beams has rotted through and is hanging down into the building and could fall at any time. The trust has been in contact with council about the state of the building for a number of weeks."

Coun Greaves accepts that the CRT had raised prior concerns about the condition of the building, although he had only learned that was the case earlier today, November 15.

However, he rejects the suggestion that this should have played any part in the CRT's decision making.

He said: "The fact of the matter is that the CRT could have said there was an issue and they needed assistance. Calls could have been made and weren't."

The council expects some form of investigation to be held in the coming weeks and months to establish the full facts of the matter.

Coun Greaves said: "At the moment we are prioritising the crisis response and recovery process.

"The flood authority concerned is working on a paper to capture exactly what happened, and we'll feed into that process.

"No doubt there will be more questions to come over the next few days to make sure all agencies involved learn lessons if necessary."