The Waste Management Engineer, assisted by a representative of the Environment Agency, presented a report outlining proposals in respect of the Arrow Valley Catchment Restoration Project. Members were advised that the project had been launched following a fatality at the Arrow Valley weir in 2014. The Council had subsequently reviewed water safety and a review had been undertaken by the Royal society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) which had identified a number of safety issues that needed to be addressed. Many of the recommendations detailed in the ROSPA report had already been implemented. ROSPA had raised concerns about the safety of children swimming in the River Arrow and had suggested that structural changes needed to be made at the sites which presented the greatest risk. The structural changes were very complex as the Council had to liaise with Historic England about what could and could not be done at the site. An application had been made for European funding to support the works required and Members were asked to agree match funding in the form of a capital bid, which added to funds previously agreed in the Medium Term Financial Plan 2019/20 to 2022/23.
The Council had been working closely with the Environment Agency on the project since 2015. The Environment Agency had already contributed £50,000 towards design work in respect of the structures, which would be undertaken by external consultants. This would ensure that the project both addressed safety concerns and that any works did not increase the potential for flooding or associated risks. The catchment for the River Arrow was considered a priority by the Environment Agency. Rivers were assessed on an ecological basis by the Environment Agency and under the criteria that the organisation used the River Arrow was classified as a failing waterway. The project provided a good opportunity to address the causes of this problem.
Following presentation of the report a number of matters were discussed in detail:
· The family of the child who had sadly died at the weir had been informed about the Council and Environment Agency’s work on the project. Members paid their respects to the family and thanked them for their hard work to raise awareness in respect of water safety.
· The financial costs involved in checking the safety equipment at the weirs and the amount of time staff spent undertaking safety checks.
· The ecological benefits of the proposed works, in terms of the positive impact that this might have on fish stocks in the River Arrow.
· The definition of a failing river. Members were advised that this was defined under the Water Framework Directive which assessed the health of a river based on fish stocks, water quality, and other related matters. Whilst the River Arrow had satisfactory fish levels and water quality exposure to industrial waste water resulted in a failing rating.
· The extent to which the funding from the EU had been secured. Members were advised that the EU funding was paid arrears and had already been provided to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council which would distribute the funding.
Council agrees to additional capital funding of £35,000 in
2019/2020 in addition to the £180K already included in the
Medium Term Financial Plan for the proposed improvement works to
the weirs in the Arrow valley Park; and
RESOLVED that, subject to Recommendation 1 being approved that:
authority be delegated to the Head of Environmental and Housing Property Services to procure the works at each of the sites.