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‘Solution in sight’ for Braunton Marsh flooding?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:05 31 January 2018

New Braunton Drainage Board chairman Jasmine Chesters views the area around the Great Sluice and says she was shocked at how bad it had become.

New Braunton Drainage Board chairman Jasmine Chesters views the area around the Great Sluice and says she was shocked at how bad it had become.

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The new chairman of the Braunton Marsh Drainage Board says a plan is in place for work to repair the Great Sluice and inner bank - read her full statement here

Every tide brings water into the marshes at Braunton and there are fears for the security of the protective inner bank. Picture: Tony Gussin Every tide brings water into the marshes at Braunton and there are fears for the security of the protective inner bank. Picture: Tony Gussin

The new chairman of Braunton Marsh Drainage Board has said a solution to its problems could be in sight.

There has been lots of concern in the village since the outer bank sea defences at Horsey Island was breached, letting water flood the marshes and threatening the inner bank.

Following a meeting of all those involved on Friday, the new board chairman Jasmine Chesters has issued a detailed statement giving the state of play – you can read the full version below.

She said she wanted to dispel some false information, including that the village would flood if the banks were breached.

A flooded Horsey Island near Braunton. Locals have feared the effect of saltwater on the freshwater marshes. Picture: Adam Hobbs A flooded Horsey Island near Braunton. Locals have feared the effect of saltwater on the freshwater marshes. Picture: Adam Hobbs

She added: “We have been informed the village will not flood through the breach of the bank at Horsey Island.

“The sea defences there are to protect the marshes. We have had a great deal of work done recently in Braunton to support the village against flooding, in particularly the new pump that has been installed close to the village green.”

Of Friday’s meeting, she said: “It was a very constructive meeting during which I gave an account of what has been done to secure the Great Sluice, the inner bank and other areas that need remedial work to be undertaken.”

She said the Marsh Inspectors, board and Environment Agency (EA) had promised money towards the work needed.

But Mrs Chesters said this work would be confined to the sluice and immediate repair to the bank around it – the outer bank belongs to the landowner and neither the board nor inspectors have any say over it.

However Mrs Chesters said Biosphere manager Andy Bell was working with the owner of Horsey Island on a plan to plug the gap in the bank.

With high tides scheduled for the coming weeks, it has been agreed to close the toll road in the interest of public safety, as water could overtop the banks.

Mrs Chesters said as soon as a timetable of works was in place she would keep people updated and thanked the 6,500 concerned people who had signed up to the Friends of Braunton Marsh Facebook page.

Full statement from Drainage Board chairman Jasmine Chesters

After a follow up meeting held last Friday, attended by the Marsh Inspectors, The Marsh Drainage Board, The EA, the River Warden, the County Councillor, members of the Parish Councillors, the Biosphere Manager and the MP for North Devon we would like to tell you that a solution to the problems at the Marshes could be in sight.

It was a very constructive meeting during which I gave an account of what has been done to secure the Great Sluice, the inner bank and other areas that need remedial work to be undertaken. The marsh inspectors and the board have promised money towards implementing the work needed and thankfully the EA have pledged some money towards the repairs.

It should be made clear that this work is solely confined to the Great Sluice and the immediate repair to the bank around the sluice. We will work with the Environment Agency to develop a maintenance plan for the future. The Marsh Drainage Board and the Marsh Inspectors are constantly in touch over this issue.

Andy Bell, the Biosphere manager, is working with the owner of Horsey Island on a plan to plug the gap in the bank. The outer bank belongs to the owner and neither the Marsh Drainage Board nor the Marsh Inspectors have any influence over how that area is managed.

Braunton Marsh is one of great importance, one visited by local and visitors alike. It is somewhere we must protect for not only people of today but the future generations to come.

Another thing I would like to say, to put people’s mind at rest, particularly those who live in Braunton that we have been informed that the village will not flood through the breach of the bank at Horsey Island. The sea defences there are to protect the marshes. We have had a great deal of work done recently in Braunton to support the village against flooding, in particularly the new pump that has been installed close to the village green.

I hope that will allay your fears?

I would also like to dispel some false information going around and need to point out that Braunton Parish Council, though concerned about what has happened with the bank breaching, they have no jurisdiction over the marshes, and neither, I should say, have North Devon Council.

Obviously both councils have concerns about the safety of people, both living on the marshes, and those who like to visit this beautiful area and we keep in touch with them. So please don’t blame the councils.

Many people are aware that there are listed buildings on the marshes, the Great Sluice being one of them. To do any work to those buildings we have to apply for licenses, planning approval and listed building approval. Colette Hall of NDC has been a great help with these things but they all applications take time.

The Marsh Drainage Board itself is quite small against other Boards and to help us with this giant undertaking we have joined forces with the Somerset Consortium. Their expertise and knowledge will be extremely advantageous to us. We expect to see some of their officers here quite soon; they will help us to move forward quicker in resolving this situation.

People may not be aware of the responsibilities of the board and the inspectors. The Marsh Drainage Board is responsible for the water levels management on the marshes and the Inspectors are trustees of the toll road, houses and banks.

It should be noted that until the recent threat to the marshes the whole area was in a very healthy condition.

You are all well aware that in the coming weeks there will be several high tides and in the interest of public safety the marsh inspectors have agreed to close the toll road the evening before the high tides until they have passed. We have no wish to hear of people being hurt.

It is possible that water could be high enough to overtop the banks, so please don’t take the risk of getting into difficulties by going there.

As soon as we have a timetable for the works to be started we will let you all know. Lastly I understand that because of the concern of what was happening in the area a group of some 6500 people have joined up to become ‘Friends of Braunton Marshes’.

Thank you so much for your concern. I will keep you updated on progress.

Jasmine Chesters

Chairman

Braunton Marsh Drainage Board.

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