Posted on November 14, 2023
AN EXASPERATED councillor is petitioning for a Weymouth lake to be dredged of silt following heavy rainfall and flooding.
Councillor Matt Bell, on Weymouth Town Council, has started an online petition to dredge Radipole Lake of silt.
He is calling for the immediate dredging and/or removal of silt from the lake to increase flood water capacity and drainage from Radipole Park.
Cllr Bell’s plea is being backed by the RSPB, which has a bird reserve at the lake, and is calling for a ‘renewed focus’ on the chronic flooding issue.
It comes after the lake and surrounding areas have been continually flooded from the effects of Storm Ciaran and deluges of rain during a wetter than average October.
Flooding in the area has become more persistent in recent weeks due to the already saturated grounds and rising river levels.
Cllr Bell, who represents the Wey Valley ward, lives near Radipole Park and often uses its amenities, but said there is a ‘persistent problem’ with flooding in the Swannery area of town.
The councillor said that this puts a £1.2m revamp of Radipole Park and Gardens at risk, as well as existing homes, amenities, sports clubs, transport routes and businesses in the area.
He started the petition after ‘frustrating communications’ with key stakeholders responsible for maintaining Radipole Lake.
Radipole Lake is subject to a Water Level Management Plan (WLMP) which, according to the councillor, means that any dredging and maintenance must be agreed with Dorset Council, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the RSPB.
The former Weymouth & Portland Borough Council was the last to update the WLMP back in 2009.
Cllr Bell said: “I have been in correspondence with several key individuals and organisations and there seems to be a lack of clarity about who is responsible for maintenance of drainage and management of water levels.”
“There is seemingly little or no record of who has been, or should have been, removing silt from the drainage channels from Radipole Park,” he added.
Cllr Bell said there is a ‘need to investigate’ whether the gate valves that control the flow of water at Westham Bridge can be adjusted to allow water to exit the lake.
“I am trying to do all I can to protect those facilities and ask that Dorset residents sign this petition to make our voices heard,” Mr Bell said.
The councillor needs 5,000 signatures before he can raise the issue to Dorset Council and has almost 200 names at the time of writing.
He said: “I think the petition is already having an impact as it is prompting conversation and awareness of the problem.
“I want to make Dorset Council and the other stakeholders aware that we want to see action taken to reduce the flood risk,” he added.
The RSPB is a tenant of Dorset Council at Radipole Lake and manages the bird reserve’s habitats.
Senior site manager Peter Robertson said: “We do believe Radipole Lake needs to be dredged as it is being filled up with silt washed down from the catchment and carrying with it nutrients.”
He added that this has resulted in part of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Radipole to be in an ‘unfavourable position.’
Mr Robertson said the RSPB has ‘repeatedly pressed’ the Environment Agency, Dorset Council and Natural England to work together to better understand and take action to address the problems with flooding, saying they would ‘welcome a renewed focus on this issue.’
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “As owners of the site, Dorset Council have overall responsibility for any maintenance activities. The lake and Swannery are within a SSSI and so permission is required from Natural England for any desilting works.”
The spokesperson went on to say that desilting the lake ‘would not require a Flood Risk Activity Permit’ from the agency, provided that the silt ‘was removed from the floodplain, and there were no works proposed within the main river channel.’
They also suggested that consent may be required from the Lead Local Flood Authority, which is Dorset Council.
A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: “WLMPs determine how water levels within SSSI should be managed to meet conservation objectives set by Natural England.”
The spokesperson went on to say that the WLMP does not allow for dredging, only ‘desilting specific areas’ where surveys show that bed levels are too high.
“We would need to undertake a new survey to know whether any bed levels are too high in the lake, but this isn’t something we would do as a matter of course,” they said.
The spokesperson said that whilst the council owns the land, any action needs an agreement from Natural England.
To view the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/dredge-radipole-lake-now-to-reduce-flood-risk