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River Ver update July 2019

Revitalising the River Project

Amazingly, two years have passed since St Albans District Council (SADC) and the Environment Agency first set out their plans for revitalising the River Ver. Since then the CNAA has made its concerns well known. We are positive about bringing improvements to Verulamium lake and the health of the River Ver as a whole, but we strongly believe that the plans for Reach 4 of the project, the bit that affect the Cottonmill site, have not been well thought through.

Over the past year CNAA has continued to engage with councillors and leaders of the Project, including presenting at the SADC Scrutiny Committee in October 2018; directly contacting Simon Grover to take issues forward; and arranging visits by councillors to the Cottonmill site to continue awareness-raising of the issues, with assistance from Irene Jacobson. A wider audience has been reached through the Herts Advertiser and Radio Verulam, and contact has been maintained with the National Allotment Society (NAS). One marked success was the reversal of the SADC decision to suspend letting plots on Cottonmill and vacant plots are now being let to new plot holders.

The final proposals for the Feasibility Study have been published on the SADC website and the plan for Reach 4 now routes the River around the Cottonmill site (not through the lowest part of the site but along the southern side and then making a sharp turn to go under Cottonmill Bridge). CNAA’s view is that this new route fails to deliver the original objective of dealing with emerging groundwater at the lowest part of the site. There is a red box on the SADC website below the launch button for the Project that invites comments and CNAA urges all members to take a look and use this facility, as well as taking any opportunity to lobby councillors. CNAA will continue to set out its position through media outlets and also, now that the formal proposal has been published, will be pressing NAS for advice and guidance.

I have recently learned that the Project has now been separated into two phases. Phase one will cover Reaches 1, 2 and 3 and phase two will cover Reaches 4, 5 and 6. There is still no clarity on where the funding is to come from for the Project. SADC confirmed that notices to allotment holders to quit would not be issued before autumn 2020.

A borehole is due to be drilled on Cottonmill as part of ongoing investigations, and a signal test carried out which is when water abstraction pumps will be turned off and the resulting effect on groundwater measured. The Feasibility Study proposals identify a number of areas where

technical considerations will be investigated further and this seems to be one area for which concrete plans have been made. CNAA will press SADC for advance notice of these tests. SADC plans to send out letters outlining the Feasibility Study proposals to those plot holders impacted by the Project.

The reality of the situation on Cottonmill site is likely to be that during and after major construction work no-one will be allowed to remain on site. New plots will be created with re- distributed or imported soil and then plots will have to be re- allocated. The outcome of the survey about moving to a new site was resoundingly rejected by those who responded. It has been suggested that maybe Affinity Water should also be targeted for questions and I would like to direct members to the current development of Affinity’s Water Resources Management Plan.

My current impression is that Reach 4 has gone off the boil so to speak but I would like to urge all CNAA members (and non-members) to continue to keep up the pressure by challenging the proposals and raising awareness with as many groups and individuals as possible.

This is the CNAA’s Revitalising the River Ver strategy

  • We will continue to press for answers and to probe for clarity and adequate responses to our unanswered questions.

  • We will continue to network with other interested parties and to present the arguments for NOT interfering with this site, at such a great environmental and financial expense, for so little in return.

  • We support the same ‘in channel improvements’ being promoted for all other Reaches, as the less disruptive and more affordable option.

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