Weir work­ing to prevent flood­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by QASIM PERACHA qasim.peracha@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @qasim­per­acha

WORK to re­move a trou­ble­some cen­tury-old con­crete weir has be­gun to re­store the trib­u­tary of the River Chess and re­duce the flood risk in Che­sham Old Town.

Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil’s Flood Man­age­ment Team be­gan work on the scheme on Mon­day (Jan­uary 22), work­ing with the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, the Hun­dridge Es­tate and Che­sham 1879 Lawn Ten­nis and Squash Club through whose land the river flows.

By re­mov­ing the weir and restor­ing the river to its orig­i­nal course, the coun­cil aims to cre­ate more ca­pac­ity, achieve a stead­ier flow, and stop wa­ter back­ing up to cause flood­ing.

The plan is to re­place a shal­low 100 me­tre chan­nel with a deeper wind­ing chan­nel us­ing pre-planted coir rolls and chest­nut clefts back­filled with river sed­i­ment and wood chip­pings.

The weirs are thought to have been built around 100 years ago to sup­port Che­sham’s fa­mous wa­ter­cress pro­duc­tion, and the coun­cil hopes that de­mol­ish­ing one will al­low gen­tle re­grad­ing of the river bed, and prevent lo­calised flood­ing.

A belt of trees along the whole 200 me­tre reach are also be­ing prune to in­crease the amount of light to the new chan­nel and dead wood is be­ing re­moved where it en­dan­gers peo­ple or prop­erty.

The £20,000 project fol­lows an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Flood Man­age­ment Team after the 2014 floods, which wa­ter­logged neigh­bours’ homes that back on to the river.

Around 100 prop­er­ties in the area are cur­rently at risk of flood­ing.

The project uses lo­cal sup­pli­ers and is ex­pected to be com­plete by the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary.

Chalk Streams Project Of­fi­cer Allen Beechey said the 10-mile long Chess is one of sev­eral chalk streams that rise in the Chilterns.

Chalk streams, which flow only when ground wa­ter lev­els rise, are a glob­ally rare habi­tat, and Eng­land has the ma­jor­ity of them.

Bill Chap­ple OBE, County Coun­cil Cab­i­net Mem­ber for Plan­ning and En­vi­ron­ment, said: “By restor­ing this sec­tion of the River Chess, we’ll be re­turn­ing it to a more nat­u­ral state, which will al­low the nat­u­ral chalk stream pro­cesses to recre­ate habi­tat.

“I’m very pleased our team have thought so care­fully and cre­atively. They’re not only re­duc­ing a flood­ing risk to res­i­dents and busi­nesses in the old town, but also work­ing with lo­cal ex­perts to re-cre­ate a habi­tat lost long ago, and which will be good for restor­ing flora and fauna to this reach of the Chess, and en­hanc­ing our lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.”

The River Chess flow­ing through Amer­sham. Above, work­ers har­vest­ing wa­ter­cress on the Chess in Amer­sham

Stand­ing on the con­crete weir with Bill Chap­ple (cen­tre) are (from left) Chilterns chalk streams project of­fi­cer Allen Beechey, strate­gic flood man­age­ment of­fi­cer Alex Back, county coun­cil­lor Noel Brown and Ten­nis Club chair­man David Clark

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