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CNAA Position Statement River Ver Improvement Project

The Cottonmill and Nunnery Allotment Association strongly supports improvement of the River Ver. The river’s health and viability contribute to the natural environment of the allotments and surrounding area. Care and maintenance of the River Ver has been inadequate for many years.

The Cottonmill allotment site has been in situ and cultivated for nearly 100 years, evidence of its historical and social importance to the St Albans community. It is a much-loved community asset and an important community infrastructure.

Our current understanding of the St Albans River Ver Improvement Project: 1. It is not necessary to divert the river in Reach 4 to improve the lakes in Verulamium Park. 2. Improvement of the lakes is independent of the proposal for Reach 4. 3. Reduction in water abstraction is not due to occur until 2025. 4. There are other options for Reach 4 that would improve the River Ver in this area and do not require mass eviction of plot holders. Our outstanding questions: 1. We are not convinced by the allotment flooding predictions given abstraction records since the 1950s. 2. Why is it necessary to alter the historic course of the River Ver where it has flowed for hundreds of years in Reach 4 and around which important civil infrastructure is placed. 3. Why has the Project Group already disregarded other options prior to a cost benefit analysis being commenced. 4. Why is it acceptable to risk losing forever the rich and unique biodiversity promoted by the Cottonmill allotments, which is a function of both years of cultivation and current land use. This will be lost to this part of St Alban's if the site is closed and cannot be easily recreated on a new site, if at all. The plight of pollinators is a known concern globally.

The Cottonmill and Nunnery Allotment Association strongly urges the River Ver Project Partners to reconsider their chosen option. Our proposal/ask: 1. All options for Reach 4 be adequately assessed, properly costed and consulted upon, including with local Councillors and the full Council, prior to any final decision being made. 2. Cost benefit analysis to include the harm to plot holders of losing multiple years of effort on their plot and the historic use of this land. 3. Cost benefit analysis to include the unique benefit allotments provide to the natural environment and to St Albans generally due to plot holders tending the land.

4. Work in Reach 4 to be done last, unless the chosen option is to improve to the River Ver is in its current historic course and there is no mass eviction of plot holders. 5. In any event, no one be asked to move before 2025 and only thereafter if there is flooding, which makes cultivation of certain plots unrealistic.

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