More news...

Nov 21, 2017
Category: Abstraction
Posted by: Kathryn

River Chess groundwater levels at record lows, a dry river in Chesham for a year, but no water restrictions from Affinity Water.

Sep 18, 2017
Category: General
Posted by: Kathryn

A public River Chess forum will take place in support of the World Wildlife Fund's 'Nature Needs You' campaign.

Jul 12, 2017
Category: Drought
Posted by: Kathryn

With groundwater levels now exceptionally low, the river in Chesham is dry as far as Lord's Mill, Waterside.

Jul 12, 2017
Category: Pollution
Posted by: Kathryn

We welcome the news that Thames Water will shortly be making improvements to the Chesham works.

Latest News

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Jun 17, 2011

Category: General
Posted by: Kathryn

This week, the Chesham Society hosted a talk on the plight of Chesham's culvert. David Watts from the Environment Agency (EA) spoke about the current condition of the culvert, which runs through Chesham's town centre, and plans for its future.

The culvert runs underground from Townsend Road to where it joins the River Chess at Duck Alley (off Red Lion Street). The route of the culvert takes it under Sainsbury's car park and the High Street and it affects 50 riparian owners (owners of property on the edge of, or over, a water course). The rights, responsibilities and obligations of riparian owners can be found in a booklet published by the Environment Agency - click here to download the PDF version.

The culvert was originally developed to take the water of the "Vale Brook", a spring-fed chalk stream tributary of the River Chess. The springs now rarely rise due to abstraction from the Alma Road bore hole, operated by Veolia. The culvert is now mainly used as a drain for high levels of groundwater and surface run-off, which has an adverse effect on the water quality of the River Chess. The springs do rise in exceptional circumstances, most notably in 2000/01 when we had a very wet winter (1 in 150 years event) and the chalk aquifer was full. The culvert was unable to cope with the volume and flow rates, which led to flooding in Chesham.

The condition of the culvert has recently been surveyed by the EA using remote-controlled cameras. The state of repair is mixed; the section beneath Sainsbury's is in good condition, whereas beneath Market Square the culvert is in a poor state and in need of immediate work. The problem facing the EA is co-ordinating the work with the 50 riparian owners. Other issues facing the project relate to access. The culvert is too small to allow work from inside and will require access from above. This will be a complicated and disruptive process as the culvert runs below buildings.

The problems facing the culvert include dislodged bricks, constricted capacity, illegal drain connections and in some places, total collapse. The repair work could be carried out piecemeal by individual riparian owners, but it would be best handled on a co-ordinated basis. If this work is not carried out and we have consecutive wet winters, which tend to occur every 7 to 10 years, it will lead to major flooding problems in Chesham town centre.

The process of agreeing who needs to pay for the work has started and an attempt has been made to contact all the riparian owners. This will be followed by a 'means testing' process, which will determine who can pay. Only when this has been completed can work start.

The River Chess Association would like to see the Vale Brook flowing as a spring-fed chalk stream again. For this to happen Veolia would have to stop or curtail their pumping activity at Alma Road. If this was to happen the capacity of the repaired culvert should be capable of meeting that requirement. This would add much needed high quality water flows to the River Chess. We would also want to see the illegal drain connections in the culvert removed, this would also improve the water quality reaching the River Chess. Re-routing the culvert may be the best outcome and possibly have it as an open watercourse. It could become a positive feature of Chesham, as it once was. All options should ensure that the culvert is capable of absorbing high levels of ground water in the town centre, which has led to flooding problems from time to time.