RDA AGM Chair’s Report

Chair’s Report

As I write this, the wind is gusting over 40 knots and reminds me of one of my grandfather’s stories, which always began “It was a cold and stormy night, and the wind was howling in the rigging”. I hope that by the time you receive this magazine, the wind is no longer whistling through your shrouds and the Spring looks set fair for river pleasures.

Committee

Veronica Falconer is stepping down from the RDA Committee at the AGM in May 2019. She has brought considerable insight into local politics and planning to her role in the River Deben Association, as she was SCDC’s ward councillor for the Nacton Ward which consisted of 10 villages including Waldringfield, Hemley and Newbourne before moving to Woodbridge, where she has served 4 years as a Town Councillor. She has a wide range of knowledge on planning issues and has spearheaded our attempts to stop inappropriate development on the River Deben. She has also been an active participant on behalf of the RDA in the activities of the Deben Estuary Partnership. Her rich knowledge of the local area, its inhabitants, and all things river-related will be much missed, as will her cheerful manner and willingness to help in all spheres of our activity.

I will be standing down in a year’s time, and we are looking for a selection of candidates who might be interested in learning “on the job” to take my place at the 2020 AGM. The excellent committee members work hard on a number of different areas of our activity but are not currently in a position to volunteer for a larger role. I can promise my successor fascinating insights into the river, flood defences, local politics, planning and a myriad of other issues. Some of the meetings which I attend on behalf of the RDA take place during the week, so it might require some juggling if you have a full-time job already. If you could have your arm twisted, please do get in touch with me and I would be delighted to tell you more.

Membership

At our AGM on 24th April 2018, we sounded out the members about putting a proposal to the 2019 AGM for subscriptions to be increased from April 2020 to £6 for single members and £10 for couples (currently £4 and £6 respectively).  As a significant majority of the meeting was in favour of the increase, it will be formally proposed at this year’s AGM. However, the April 2019 fees will remain unchanged.

We are still missing e-mail addresses for many of you, so if you have not received an e-mail recently, please send your details to Jim Goldsworthy on riverdebenmembers@gmail.com, giving your consent to be contacted by e-mail.

I am glad to report that our membership has now reached 899, so please keep recruiting friends and neighbours to join – the magic 1000 is in sight!

Planning Applications

There is nothing further to report on the situation at Melton Hill for the time being.

At Whisstocks Place, the RDA originally expressed concern about the developer’s application to turn the upstairs space into a residence, whilst having no issue with their proposal to split the ground floor into a restaurant space on the waterside elevation and a more general-use A1/A2/A3/B1 space behind. However having ascertained first-hand that the ground floor has river views from the deck or when seated at a normal-height table, we withdrew our objection to the change of use of the upstairs area provided, among other things, that the financial contribution offered by the developer is put back into making Whisstocks Place a vibrant open space for the town. While we appreciate that the square should carry reminders of its industrial heritage and not be over-gentrified, we feel that it needs to be softened and made attractive with some greenery in appropriate planters as well as seating and perhaps installations of interest to encourage visitors in to enjoy the area and provide activity and buzz.

We have made representations on several other private residential planning applications where we have taken the view that the river area would be spoilt by aspects of the proposed development.

Activities

Aside from our two annual meetings, the RDA took a stall in 2018 at the Woodbridge Regatta & Riverside Fair on 17th June and at Maritime Woodbridge on September 8th and 9th. These were both useful in spreading the word about our activities and in recruiting new members, as well as being part of demonstrating to residents and visitors the vibrancy of the river community. This year, we will take a stand at the Woodbridge Regatta and Riverside Fair to be held on Sunday 23rd June. In February 2019, the RDA hosted its now -biennial Forum, to which businesses and clubs with a close interest in the River Deben are invited and asked for their views on topics of common interest. The list of topics this year included flood defences, Marine Management Organisation licences, river speed restrictions (more on this below), raw sewage discharge, the Deben Bar, the falling numbers of boats on the river, a possible replacement of the Horse Sands buoy and what to do about dilapidated boats. The minutes of this meeting can be found on our website.

Speeding on the river

You will not be surprised to hear that the dangers of speeding on the river were, as ever, a hot topic at the Forum discussed above. You may have seen the brochure which the RDA produces about speeding on the river, but just in case you haven’t, the river code which forms part of it is included in the magazine. We distribute this regularly to boat clubs but have now agreed to add pubs to our list of drop-off places, as much of the speeding occurs as part of getting to and from the riverside drinking establishments. We do not have any maritime police on our river, but the harbour masters do a good job of talking to owners about the dangers to both people and saltmarshes of speeding. If you see the opportunity to play a part in educating river users about this, please do spread the word.

River Defences and the Deben Estuary Partnership

The Deben Estuary Partnership (DEP), of which the RDA is a member, continues to focus on flood defences and saltmarsh. At its most recent meeting on 21st January 2019, it was reported that £120,000 of Community Infrastructure Levy has been awarded to the DEP for the preparation work necessary to undertake improvement works to the river walls at Bawdsey Marshes, (known as Flood Cell 1).

We understand from a meeting of the Suffolk Coastal Forum that a strategy review of how the Environment Agency attributes value to land to determine its need for flood protection is underway (it is currently based broadly on the number of properties at risk).

Jane Burch has recently retired as the Flood & Coastal Policy Manager of Suffolk County Council. She had a rare ability to cut through red tape and get things done and she will be sorely missed. We would like to thank her for her dedication to the Deben and to a greener future for us all.

Saltmarshes

The RDA’s own Saltmarsh Research Group has been awarded a grant from the Suffolk Coasts & Heaths ANOB from its Sustainable Development Fund of £1986 to be paid in 2 equal instalments, of which the first payment of £993 has been received. This money enables RDA volunteers to extend an existing Pilot Study at Waldringfield so that further tests can be made to measure the erosion effects of crabs on saltmarsh walls.  Consent is being sought to allow similar measurements to be taken further down the river towards Hemley.

The DebenEstuary Partnership Saltmarsh group met on 9th March 2019 to discuss the various projects being undertaken or proposed on the river.

The fourth meeting of the Suffolk Saltmarsh group was held on 11th March, with updates being provided from the Blyth, Alde and Ore, Deben and Stour and Orwell. The Environment Agency reported that consent from the Marine Management Organisation to their proposed project to look at using natural materials to assist in preserving flood defences had been delayed to such an extent that the project had to be aborted, wasting countless officer and volunteer hours. 

England Coastal Path

I would like to thank Giles Merritt of Natural England for talking to the River Deben Association’s Autumn meeting about the proposals for the Bawdsey to Felixstowe Ferry part of the England Coastal Path and answering the many questions raised by members and invited interested parties. The meeting attracted a record attendance of over 160 members.  At the time of writing, Natural England’s plans for the Deben estuary are still awaited.  

Taking Part

I am keen to continue to expand the appeal of the RDA. It is not just for the sailing fraternity, but for all who love the river, whether they are walkers, bird-watchers, nature lovers, wild-swimmers or stand up paddle boarders, and I am delighted that many of our new members have a diverse range of interests in the Deben. We have already broadened the scope of the magazine but do send in articles on a broad range of subjects. If you see a gap in our coverage, please step in to fill it! We would also like to make the website more dynamic, with links to other activities which could be of interest to our members, so if you belong to a club or association which has something going on (a talk on river birds, a litter-pick, for example) please contact Kate Laydon, our publicity committee member.

Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting will be held on 1st May, 2019 at 6.30 p.m at the Community Centre, Woodbridge. It will be followed by a talk from David Kemp, Coastal Team Leader for the East Anglia Area at the Environment Agency entitled “Surge Predicted – 24 hours in the EA’s Incident Room”.  Tea and Coffee will be available from 6.15 p.m.

Sarah Zins

March 2019