Report of the Head of Public Rights of Way and Country Parks (DCC) informing members of the work that has taken place to date and the future programme of works.
Consideration was given to a report * of the Public Rights of Way and Country Parks Manager.
A recent heavy rainfall event showed that further fine tuning of the settings was needed to programme the weir to release more water, as on that occasion a ranger had to manually open a sluice to keep levels from rising too high.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The likelihood of the weir opening up accidentally either due to abuse or malfunction. There were concerns that should this happen the Canal would drain very fast. The Canal Manager confirmed that the engineers were confident the weir could not open accidentally. There had been no record of this happening. As regards abuse, vandals would need to know how the system worked and this was a technical piece of equipment. The system worked by measuring the distance from a sensor to the water level of the canal. There were actually three sensors and an email would be sent if there was a fault.
· Stopboards had now been delivered which could be inserted into steel grooves and screwed down.
· Water levels would have to drop by 20cm to trigger the existing low level warning system.
· The supplier confirmed that no regular maintenance was necessary for the tilting weir just visual inspection. The Rangers would just have to keep an eye on the batteries.
· The weir was potentially a fish trap and if a lot of water was released a large number of fish could be lost. However, it was not possible to secure meshing since this would potentially collect a great deal of debris.
· The Canal Manager would be investigating the possibility of installing camera’s to both monitor the effectiveness of the system and to detect vandalism.
Canal basin wall-moving project
The following update was provided:
· Good progress was being made.
· The soft Breccia stone wall had been successfully dismantled without the stones being broken.
· No archaeology had been found and no underground services had been affected.
· All was proceeding as planned although the road closure was not popular, however, this had been the only way South West Highways had been able to complete the works safely.
· There had been considerable costs involved with opening up the road at weekends.
· The project had taken up a lot of the Canal Managers time.
· All the parapet fences and hand rails would have the same finish.
· One car parking space would be lost at the entrance as a result of the new arrangements.
· The Conservation Officer at MDDC had insisted that two trial walls be built off site prior to commencement of the project since the wall was historically important.
· The project would be completed within an 8-9 week programme.
Discussion took place regarding:
· How well the project was progressing and the impressive standard of work by the contractors.
· There had been many near accidents with the previous arrangements.
· There was some confusion regarding the signage within the locality and whether the canal itself remained open and not just businesses within and alongside it.
· Pedestrian access had been maintained.
· The potential for a crossing could be explored by the Highway and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) once the works were completed especially in the light of there being a children’s play area in the future.
Other walls around the Canal Basin
· An application for DCC corporate funding would be made to address the issue of damage caused by trees planted decades ago along the southern boundary of the Canal Basin car park.
· There was a gradually worsening problem with the wall between the garden of the Moorings and the road. Spray from cars was slowly eroding the soft stone and undermining the wall along the bottom 40cm. Corporate funding had been secured to address the issue and works would be undertaken while the existing road closure was in place.
This was a serious problem nationally and had affected both young saplings and older trees along the canal. A consultant would be visiting the site the next day to assess the situation further. There was potentially some corporate funding available for felling diseased trees since the County Council had a duty of care on its land and along highways.
Ramp beside Ebear Bridge
A new ramp and hand rails had been installed which the Committee agreed was visually more pleasing and much safer than before.
Fenacre water transfer system
The following update was provided:
· The Canal Manager had asked the Chairman to follow up on progress with Aggregate Industries (AI) following a lack of communication.
· AI had commissioned a report from AMEC to ascertain future options regarding the water system, these options still needed to be checked for feasibility.
· The Chairman stated that they needed to continue to apply pressure to AI where they could to ensure progress was made but reiterated the fact that discussions were still needed regarding health and safety.
· Jacobs would be analysing the report on behalf of DCC since it was very technical in nature. Attention needed to be focussed on whether or not water could be stored in the quarry but again there were issues about health and safety and geostability. A further meeting with AI, AMEC and the Environment Agency would be needed once the report had been analysed.
Discussion took place with regard to:
· There were a lot of unknowns, especially during long periods of dry weather. Digging down into the quarry so low over a period of decades had reduced water supply to the canal and that was accepted by AI.
· As it currently stood if there was no significant rainfall in the summer months then it was an inevitable fact that the water levels would be very low by the autumn.
· There was much disappointment and frustration that another 6 months had gone by without much progress.
· The quarry had applied for renewal of mining permissions, several issues were holding this up including traffic flow around Burlescombe.
· Pressure to get some progress must be maintained although it was accepted that no leverage could be held over the Environment Agency.
The Canal Manager had met with Adam Pilgrim and Pat Brind after the last meeting to discuss a revised set of terms and conditions. He had been told by DCC that it would be possible for permits to be purchased on line, however, there had been a delay in getting this up and running. There had been broad agreement about a number of changes, however, further feedback was required from the County Solicitors. It was one of the Canal Managers priorities for the autumn to finish this piece of work.
Discussion took place with regard to the following:
· Boaters often use Tiverton Road car park and when questioned some had admitted to not having a permit.
· A change to the by-laws would be needed if boaters were required to just purchase a permit from a pay and display type machine as there was a requirement by law to hold the names and addresses of permit holders.
· New ticket machines would cost thousands of pounds and sufficient income to cover this would never be recouped.
· There was also a problem with canoes in that the BCU had indicated they have a right to go on any waterway.
· A suggestion for the revised terms and conditions to be approved by Adam Pilgrim, Pat Brind and the Canal Manager alone was not supported and it was AGREED that the revised wording be circulated to all Committee members and agreed by them as a whole.
A query was raised as to what happened to benches that through time had decayed and were no longer safe to be sat on? The Canal Manager explained that if they were able to trace who had originally paid and requested the bench then they would be contacted. However, if this was not possible and they were past their natural life they were removed but the plaques were always retained at the workshops.
Wetland bird survey
The Committee wished to pass on their thanks to Ray Jones for over 20 years of dedicated service in undertaking the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Wetland Bird Survey along the Canal once every month and also Andrew Cunningham who assisted him for much of this time. It requested that their thanks be conveyed to them through the Clerk.
It meant that a volunteer was now sought to undertake the survey once a month between the Tiverton and Greenway section of the Canal.
Canal Visitor Guide
It was agreed that the new Visitor Guide looked much more professional especially now that the darker photographs had been removed. A request was made however for anyone with good photographs of the Canal to submit them to the Canal Manager for the next publication.
Praise was requested to be passed on to the team for the large number of events that had taken place since the last meeting. Those who attended had provided very positive feedback and as well as learning a great deal had had great fun.
Future Programme of Works
It was confirmed that the play project was due to go in once the wall project had been finished.
Weed management would also be on-going.