Culvert work fees may fall on firms

PUBLISHED: 16:19 04 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:05 31 May 2010

BUSINESSES could be left to foot the bill if a survey deems more work is necessary on Saffron Walden s Slade culvert. An investigation into the state of the main culvert, as well as its tributary culverts, the Thaxted Slade and the Audley End Loop, is cur

BUSINESSES could be left to foot the bill if a survey deems more work is necessary on Saffron Walden's Slade culvert.

An investigation into the state of the main culvert, as well as its tributary culverts, the Thaxted Slade and the Audley End Loop, is currently being conducted by the Environment Agency.

Head of communications for the region at the Environment Agency (EA), Richard Woollar, said: "We are undertaking studies and expect to get the initial findings in January, before assessing them and identifying what can be done," he said.

"The Regional Flood Defence Committee meets in January, and it will allocate any work that needs doing."

The main aim of the Standard of Protection Study is to identify any risk of flooding and to establish whether any work is necessary.

District and Town Cllr Stephen Jones revealed he would not be surprised if work was necessary, and that it could lead to complications regarding who is liable to pay for any repairs.

"Having seen photographs of the culvert from the early 1980s, I'm pretty sure it will require further works.

"This could become a complex issue as it runs underneath several businesses and riparian rights may lead to the owners of those businesses being faced with the repair bill."

Where the culvert runs beneath streets, the county council is liable to pay for the repairs, as was the case with the £350,000 Cross Street works.

However, where the culvert lies beneath businesses, the town, district and county councils have no obligation to pay for any works.

Phil Hunt, Uttlesford District Council's engineer, said the age of the culvert had led to business owners previously being warned about it.

He said: "The culvert runs under many businesses and when the district council was the operating authority, we advised property owners to look at the section beneath their property.

"In 2001, the culvert was classified as a critical watercourse, which was the responsibility of the district council.

"However, in April 2006 all critical watercourses were reclassified as main rivers, meaning the overseeing of them became the EA's job.

"This does not mean that the EA is responsible for the cost of repairs - that would technically be down to the riparian owner."

The results from the study into the culvert, parts of which date back to the 18th Century, are expected to be revealed later this month.

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