Ward Report December 2015

Golden Valley North report December 2015

NMiTE – The new Hereford University received great news in the Chancellors autumn statement with potential funding of £18 million. This project is now ramping up to open to the first 300 students in 2018. This is good news for Herefordshire.

Herefordshire Council Smallholdings Estate.
The future of the 4800 acre estate has been under review for some time and a decision to sell all or some was taken at Cabinet last week. This will be very difficult for some of the 45 families who are tenants. The impact won’t be known until April following discussions with all tenants and a disposal plan has been agreed.

Peterchurch planning.
Outline planning was granted for up to 89 houses in the centre of the village. The applicant has been in negotiation with Welsh Water over the last year to plan an upgrade to the village sewerage system. The permission is for access and outline only. The design and infrastructure and layout and other material considerations are all open for consultation before the final plans come back to planning committee for a decision in due course.

Regional Flood and Coastal Committee –RFCC
This time of year becomes interesting as the Council representative on this committee.

Monday 30th November saw very heavy rain in the welsh hills that caused a very quick rise in the level of the river wye. In a matter of a couple of hours the river at Builth went from normal winter level to full the river bridge arches causing serious flooding locally. Coinciding with day 1 of the welsh winter fair, many will remember the day because over a hundred cars in the main car park became stranded and many with water up to the seats and more.

A flood warning was given late afternoon for the Wye, Hay to Hereford. At 7 pm the estimated height at Glasbury was forecast close to 4 metres. This was close to the all-time highest recorded at that guage, and did not bode well for those of us that get the full impact of floods on the river downstream.
Fortunately very little rain had fallen locally so the local watercourses did not have any excess flows.

The Environment Agency website showed the water level graph with a very steep rise that suggested the flood would arrive very quickly when it reached downstream.

We got little sleep that night as we were expecting a flood of biblical proportions, so on one of my trips “down the yard” to monitor the rise, I found myself standing at the side of the pool by the church at 3.30am, wondering why the water had not started to back up on the road to the church, when suddenly there was a disturbance in the bull rushes, something large was moving quickly through them from one end of the pool to the other. I kept my torch on the moving rushes when something came straight towards me at speed.

I froze with fear of the unknown, when right at my feet a full grown Otter rose out of the water right by my wellingtons, he took one look at me and the light and turned and swam off just as rapidly. I estimate him over 5 feet long, and to my surprise bulrushes started rattling in other places in the pool. I then spotted another and they both looked at me from a distance with two sets of beady eyes looking straight at me. I think there was another as well, so quite an eventful start to the day.

The water soon started to rise and it wasn’t long before the farm entrance 7 bar gate disappeared from site. This puts the water over 5 feet deep so please do not try driving through it as your cars won’t get through as someone unfortunately found out on Tuesday pm.

At 7 pm the Environment agency deployed the flood barriers below the old wye bridge at Hereford as the wall should keep out 5.4 metres of water, as the estimated height was 5.2 metres it seemed the right thing to do. As it happened the water did not quite make 5 metres, but this is the sort of decision that needs taking ahead of the expected peak.
The river Wye usually takes about 24 hours to reach peak flood here from rain in the hills whereas the river Severn will take best part of 4 to 6 days.

A few days later I spent the day in the flood incident room at Tewkesbury to see that all arrangements of monitoring water levels across the region are working as required. Several members of staff had been deployed to Cumbria to help out in the aftermath of the horrendous problems that hit the area around Carlisle.

May I wish you all a happy Christmas and best of health for the New Year.

Philip Price

Herefordshire Council ward member Golden Valley north.