that this is not a hollow "late in the day" exercise in public consultation. It is long past time that the Environment Agency took its responsibility to the public seriously. Many people in the South West are suspicious of the way that the Agency has discharged its duties in the region since its formation back in 1995 and the persistent refusal of managers and executives to address the abuses, wrongdoing and the plain wrong ideologically driven policies dreamt up by activists inside this government body seems to simply rumble onwards..
The EA even have a history of blinkered cherry picking from the WFD they're seeking to consult us on. It'll be interesting to see if there is any interest outside the assorted activist bodies for taking control of "water in the environment"....
Flooding would be the concern of most people - particularly those living in areas where the EA's attention to maintenance has been sadly lacking - but will this effort make a difference? The EA set out most times to control the agenda - swerving around issues that are legitimate concerns for many recipients of their services.
If you've been following the saga at Avoncliff - you'll be aware that the EA is not keen on exposing its internal workings. Officials can be threatening and aggressive where they think they have some leverage on an individual or organisation making an enquiry about how a particular decision was arrived at. Otherwise delay and simply ignoring the question are effective evasion for the officials concerned. There are rather a lot of EA FoI enquiries which are either awaiting internal review, partially answered or simply not answered.
It should be noted that the legislation underpinning this consultation exercise is the EU Water Framework Directive and I for one feel that this has not been adequately explained in the EA's press release supposedly soliciting contributions from members of the public and concerned organisations. The prescriptions in the WFD constrain what any consultations can achieve anyway.... and this has the look of a "going through the motions" exercise.
Rather predictably....... the links from the EU web site dedicated to the UK Water Framework Directive to the appropriate Environmment Agency web page are BROKEN (UK Southwest WFD RBD link) . It's almost as if they can't be bothered to join stuff up - trivial, but actually telling of the EA's attitude.
The SW UK WFD related EA pages are here(pdf) (and West Wiltshire / Avon is part of the Severn Basin (pdf) ) We note that many of the assumptions made by EA officials in 2009 - almost 5 years ago - have not been amended to reflect the present circumstances and in some cases dramatically changed projections of future circumstances.
This looks superficially like a chance for the folk of the Parrett river basin to influence the way their area deals with the issues relating to drainage on the Somerset Levels - I hope they grab it with both hands - it'll be a tug 'o war with the EA though . :-)