Agenda item

River Severn Partnership

To receive a presentation on the River Severn Partnership.

Minutes:

4.1       The Chair invited Hayley Deighton, West Midlands Sustainable Growth Manager & River Severn Partnership Programme Manager for the Environment Agency, to present this item. Members noted the following points:

 

·         Slide 2 gave an overview of the Partnership and where it was headed. The Partnership was formed in September 2019 and was aimed at looking at the opportunities for the EA to take a proactive role in developing long term planning to protect, and enhance our environment, whilst also bringing together collective resources from across the geography.

·         The environmental drive for this was the significant challenges that would continue to impact us such as climate change, water quality, Brexit and land management, but there were also economic and social drivers for creating this long-term, sustainable growth.

·         The environment had to become the forefront of our future planning, but was also an important asset that needed active management for society and our future economy.

·         The Partnership recognised many individual organisations were continuing to do good work, but that we can’t, and shouldn’t, be taking on these challenges alone.

·         Slide 3 set out the needs, risks and opportunities that had already been identified. It was highlighted that the risks and financial impacts currently would only continue to increase if no action was taken.

·         Doing nothing was no longer an option. The prediction on increasing river levels alone posed a real challenge for communities along the Severn, as well as the predications on reducing water availability and quality.

·         There were however real opportunities to release significant benefits from spending and investing in the natural environment. Not only would it boost productivity but it would also reduce yearly revenue costs of dealing with increasing major incidents.

·         The Partnership would seek to bring together water and environmental management, to put it at the forefront of our thinking and deliver wide reaching place based resilience, net environmental gain and benefits for our economy and society as a whole.

·         Slide 7 summarised the many different organisations that had now joined the Partnership which included all local authorities along the catchment, LEPs, Welsh Partners, many environmental groups as well as wider reaching organisations such as Homes England etc.

·         Slides 8-14 outlined and reinforced the current and predicted impacts of flooding, drought and climate change on Gloucestershire.

·         Slide 15 detailed the work of the Partnership to date which included continued wider engagement on the risks of no action, the formation of a 46 MP Consortium to help connect its work into national Government, an early success of a £41m investment to accelerate 3 existing schemes (detailed under Now on slide 16) and the official identification of the Partnership as a national pilot.

·         It had also brought in consultancy support to pull together and rank all projects from across the geography and partner organisations (around 200 individual projects). These would then be categorised into 1 of 4 demonstrator project groups:

1.    Looking at resilience and how we unlock potential – proactively build water management schemes that unlock further benefit and recycle benefit;

2.    Nature based solutions – nature recovery / natural flood management etc.;

3.    Reliance and adaptation – the acceptance that we will never completely eradicate risk – produce a centre for excellence living with water and adapting to it; or

4.    Place based issues – bring all risks/issues together into one programme.

 

4.2       As the officer responsible for flood risk management at GCC, James Blockley added that the Partnership enabled GCC to work closely with partners across the catchment to work with the water, where it came from, where it fell and where it ended up. Everyone appreciated that water did not respect county boundaries and working together meant we were not only managing a problem in one area, to just pushing it down the river to create a problem elsewhere. It was a very exciting project that GCC were completely behind and had contributed financially in the early stages of the Partnerships set up. Members were encouraged to liaise with officers on suitable schemes for the resilience fund mapping.

 

4.3       A member questioned whether the Sever Estuary Partnership had been involved. It was advised that there had been initial conversations but there needed to be further detailed discussions. The Partnership had naturally evolved over the past year, and had suddenly taken on many different partners which was a massive strength. Work now needed to be done to formalise these arrangements, set up a government structure etc.

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