This piece of infrastructure is critically important to a wide area of East Cambs and of course especially so to the Downham Villages. Built in 1651 it is a crucial part of the flood defences protecting our residences, businesses, farmland and infrastructure. The EA insist that the work they have undertaken is correct and has done nothing to damage the structure of the banks – of course I sincerely hope that is the case. However, hearing the concerns of local people with intimate knowledge of the system passed down through the generations, as well as those of people who have maintained it in the past, I have to say that I am concerned.
I therefore called a meeting which we hosted at ECDC. It was attended by representatives from the EA, Cambridgeshire County Council (as Local Lead Flood Authority), ECDC and the Stop the Floods Flood Action Group. The main point of contention is whether or not the river bed is lined in clay and whether the material that has been dug out and placed on the side of the banks contains clay or not. Certainly, there seems to be good historical evidence pointing to it being likely to be lined in clay, but nothing definitive. Looking at the material on the side of the bank it seems hard to believe that it doesn’t contain clay.
The EA will be testing the materials to determine whether or not clay is present. ECDC will also be commissioning its own independent testing and it is hoped that both parties will take samples together. If clay is present the EA has said that it will admit that it is at fault and decide what needs to be done about it.
What’s for sure, is that a lot of work needs to be done by the EA to restore trust in the local people and that includes myself.