Report of the Head of Public Rights of Way and Country Parks (DCC) informing Members of the work that has taken place to date.
Consideration was given to a report * of the Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager.
The update in the report regarding the new aluminium stopboards was noted. It was explained that in terms of their life span, they were made of an extremely sturdy metal which should not corrode and should last for a very long time. A licence agreement had been provided by the Canal and Rivers Trust.
There had been a delay in starting construction due to a long procurement process and complex technical issues. It was hoped that work would start after the Easter holidays and the intention was to keep the towpath open throughout the works. The ultimate intention was to be able to get the levels down as quickly and easily as possible during persistent wet weather. The question was asked as to why the tilting weirs needed to be powered and could not be automatic. Jacobs had looked at various options including solar powered weirs. The ones chosen had been their recommendation and they had a good history in other locations. They were able to pre-empt a serious situation and could be adjusted even if the canal rangers were not there. They were also able to be manually opened in the unlikely event of a power failure.
Black Bridge culvert
The culvert capacity had been increased although concern remained regarding the potential for flooding of adjacent land and property.
Embankment tree management
A lot of tree coppicing had taken place over the last few years and the rangers were about to start the next big block of work along the embankment between Tiverton Road Car Park and the golf course. A felling licence had been secured and an arboricultural consultant had helped to plan the works. Work has just strated and the felling element was due to be completed by mid March but the timing of the extraction of timber would be dependent on the weather.
Embankment scrub removal
The aim was to keep on top of any regrowth from the Sellake embankment. An adjacent farmer would be grazing his sheep there in order to deter the re-emergence of scrubby growth.
Maintenance barge overhaul
The update provided in the report was noted. It was explained that the barge had historic interest having taken people on tours up and down the canal in the 1970’s. The repaired barge would be ready to go back on the water in the next week or two.
Gabions under bridges
Stone-filled gabion baskets had been installed underneath Black Bridge in Burlescombe. There were a few areas that had been prone to crumbling due to erosion and an absence of vegetation.
At the last meeting there had been an agreement to set up a working party. A lot of work had been done to clear away emergent weed and this was now an integral part of cyclical maintenance. There was a plan to start moving towards Sampford Peverell, this would present a more challenging problem in that the next section was thicker, had more wildlife and was more difficult to access on both sides. It was explained that water soldier was a problem that could not be quickly resolved and would almost certainly end up reaching Tiverton at some point in the next few years but regular removal with the new weed boat should significantly reduce the impact.
The rangers were planning to fell a weeping willow at Sampford Peverell Bridge which had been falling over into the canal for a number of years. The root plate is large and could potentially damage adjacent walls therefore intervention at this stage was necessary. A replacement specimen tree with much less potential for creating damage and future expense would be planted in its place with a smaller root plate. It was explained that the rangers planted far more trees than they removed.
MDDC had written to Devon County Council (DCC) stating that they would like to meet to discuss the funding situation going forwards. DCC were still waiting for a formal invitation. The situation regarding funding for 2016/17 and the following year had taken up a great deal of the Canal Manager’s time and had prevented him from taking forward a number of other projects. Cllr Slade stated that the press had blown the issue up out of all proportion, this had not been the fault of Members as they had been against the proposal to withdraw the grant from the beginning. Thanks were extended to all those involved in securing future funding.
Canal play area
This was one of the projects that had been put in hold as a result of the funding issue, however, a tender would be going out in the following week and it was hoped that the play area could be installed before the summer holidays. It was confirmed that a bow top wall fence would be erected that could not be climbed.
The Canal Manager had now started this and needed to have it completed before the Green Flag judges visited which could be anytime between April and July. The Management Plan would come to the committee in October for comment.
2015 Photo competition
There had been 381 entries, many of which had been excellent and could be added to the increasing library of photo’s. Cllrs Hannon and Radford had contributed to the prizes from their locality budgets. The canal team were posting two pictures a week on their Facebook and Twitter accounts so that at least a 100 would be seen by others.
Due to some severe storms the culvert had become blocked with rocks and water had been backing up and flowing into the canal. The flood defence team were looking at installing a grill upstream and more work will be done to cut all the debris before it reaches the culvert.
Solicitors had given advice regarding the necessity for a robust legal challenge. The committee would be kept informed as to progress via the clerk.
Fenacre water transfer system
Due to a close family bereavement it had been difficult to get any feedback from the Estate Manager since the autumn. However, there were now signs that Aggregate Industries are keen to progress the proposed scheme. The Environment Agency would need to give approval for any scheme. It was hoped that a meeting would be held in the next two to three weeks. It was AGREED that the Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee write to the AI Estate Manager re-emphasising the committee’s wish, in the strongest terms possible, that the scheme be progressed as soon as possible.
It was explained that whilst water run-off from the hills into the drains of Atherton Way had several times overwhelmed the drainage system, had lifted man holes and uncontrolled water had entered the canal and people’s houses. A meeting had organised by DCC’s Flood risk management team, with officers from South West Water, DCC Bridges team, Highways, the canal team, MDDC and neighbours to determine what could be achieved as a group working together. One of the complicating factors related to the ownership of the pipe work including underneath people’s gardens, once known a survey would be required. Possible solutions included sorting out the settlement pond, cleaning out pipe work, straightening up a right angled turn and building a controlled overflow into the canal in tandem with the installation of a tilting weir. The flood team at Devon County Council would lead but there was an issue as to where the funding would come from.
Re-designed Visitor Guide
There were a few different options for the front cover but the number of suitable photographs was limited. The final version would be available for the Easter holidays and would be distributed to all local outlets. Devon County Council’s design team would be finalising it. It was not possible to include a section on all the various wildlife, there just wasn’t room. It was confirmed that there was a page on fishing within the main guide.
Canal basin car park
Wooden posts had been rotting and snapping off at the base, replacement posts had been installed which were fewer in number but were larger and had a chain link between them.
DCC’s website system has been updated and as well as being more attractive visually was also much easier to update by the canal team.
Volunteers had contributed 183 days of work since the last meeting. The Chairman wished for the committee’s thanks to be passed on to the people concerned.
Craig Saunderson had recently completed 20 years service for Devon County Council at the Grand Western Canal. It was AGREED that the Chairman write to him on behalf of the Joint Advisory Committee congratulating him and thanking him for his continued hard work and dedication.
Future programme of works
Discussion took place regarding:
· The reed bed project which had not been listed in the programme of future works as it was dependent on how much funding was available. It was not a priority at the moment.
· The sluice at Fossend Bridge – following recent severe rain fall, there had been a significant rise in water levels. Rangers had tried to open the sluice but had been unable to as the hatch had become siezed. The installation of tilting weirs would mean that opening the hatch was unlikely to ever be necessary.
· Mr Melvyn Lucas thanked the canal team, firstly for improvements at Battens Bridge which had been praised by people in Sampford Peverell and secondly for undertaking to repair the steps and hand rail at Buckland Bridge.