THE TRUTH ABOUT DREDGING

There seem to be a number of myths around currently about the possible future state of the Creek and the need for dredging, published in correspondence in the local press. This article may clear up some of the facts and issues of concern and offers a comment on the current priorities.

The Creek was dredged by Medway Ports in 2012, from the Bridge down to Ironwharf. The Turning circle between Standard Quay and the Bridge was widened and the gut was widened. The navigable condition of the creek is now more than adequate for the traffic that uses it.

Unfortunately, the sluice gates have been out of action for some months due to lack of maintenance, but that is being resolved now, with a local person volunteering to clear the blocked valve that controls the opening at low water and keep an eye on the operation.

More important, a licence to carry out Maintenance dredging of the whole Creek, is being applied for by this Trust. The annual limits of this licence are sufficient to maintain an adequate navigation.

It has been suggested recently that, without the Neighbourhood Plan as currently proposed in draft, the Creek would not be dredged and would become silted up. As you can see above, there is no connection between the Plan and the planned licenced dredging, and our ability to use affordable local resources to carry out that dredging as required.

There is also a perception that more dredging is needed to reduce flooding on the highest and surge tides. Unfortunately, as the Environment Agency has made clear, no amount of dredging will reduce the level of the tide. This is entirely controlled by the level of the water in the North Sea and the Thames Estuary, at any state of the tide and weather.  It can never be lower than that.

However, what is noticeable is the way in which flood water does not recede with the ebb-tide; it becomes trapped on land for various reasons, making the misery longer and damage worse. These failures are man made, and the various agencies responsible need to be pursued to fix them. Where water should simply pour back into the Creek when the level drops very rapidly after the turn of the tide, and it does not, then that needs documenting and the cause identified, and the responsible agency forced to fix it. This should be done with the support of the Town and Swale Council, and its councillors.

The only way to stop flooding is by creating one or more barriers to the water; the simplest being a bund around individual or groups of houses, and some way of preventing water spilling around from behind. These defences are all possible, but sandbagging on the day, is largely inadequate. Even preventing drains from backing up into houses is possible, though the authorities may be reluctant to cover the cost; insurance companies might be more interested if it prevented repeat claims; that is, if further insurance is still possible.

It seems unfair that with all the effort that goes into the Neighbourhood Plan to build new houses on the flood plain, very little goes into championing the solutions to the flood problems of the existing residents. Very few councillors bothered to turn up to a recent presentation by the Environment Agency, organised by Brents Community Association and this Trust, on the future of flood prevention in Faversham.

The Neighbourhood Plan solution for mitigating the effects of flooding is to build  Tall Houses on Stilts, with the flooding areas underneath used for virtually un-insurable activities and property; cars, business equipment, shops and stock.

There is really no excuse for perpetuating this formula as a solution; we are not so short of available land in this area that we have to build Houses on Stilts.

However, the NPPF bogeyman and Council Rules are being fully exploited to ensure the success of the developments, to the benefit of the speculators, and the potential future misery of the residents. What’s the betting that there is no mention of the regular, or recent, flooding on the Creek in the sales blurb for these exclusive Creekside properties.

On the other hand, if the recent claim in the local press, that these houses will mostly be bought by boat-owners, was actually true, then it might be an attractive proposition to build them as Boat Houses… now that would certainly respect the Creek as a Creek!

R Telford

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