Minutes of South Chilterns Catchment Partnership Steering Group Meeting
Held at Environment Agency, Red Kite House, Wallingford
Thursday 22nd February 2018

Present Representing
Alison Love Catchment Coordinator, Environment Agency
Andy Slaney Strategic Catchment Partnerships Team, Environment Agency
Allen Beechey Chilterns Chalk Streams Project
Mike Overall Revive the Wye/ Little Marlow Lakes
Philip Simpkin Wycombe District Council
Kay Lacey Pang Valley Flood Forum
Jo Clark University of Reading
Sue Morris Withymead Nature Reserve
Roger Wyatt Withymead Nature Reserve
Alison Futter Fisheries, Biodiversity & Geomorphology, Environment Agency
Stuart Keable Fisheries Technical Officer, Environment Agency
Lesley Sproat Fisheries, Biodiversity & Geomorphology, Environment Agency
Russell Frost (RCF) Catchment Host, Foundation for Water Research

Apologies were received from Charlotte Elliott of Natural England, Sam Riley of Forestry Commission, Jeff Woodhouse of Thames Valley Angling Association, Dave Wales of Thames Fishery Consultative, Jude Vernon of BBOWT, Brian Connerton of West Berkshire Countryside Society, and Graham Scholey of the Environment Agency, for whom Alison Futter substituted.

  1. Welcome, apologies and introductions

    RCF welcomed everyone attending the meeting and thanked them for allowing a timely start (2.00 p.m.) on an ambitious agenda. Participants introduced themselves and their affiliation. RCF informed the meeting of apologies received.

    As the new representative of the catchment host, having replaced Neil Tytler at the end of 2017, RCF said a few words on his background and intended approach. He emphasised his recognition of the participatory approach, its value and the sense of ownership it engenders. Whilst happy to take the lead as appropriate on agreed actions, the style he intended to bring to the role would be that of a facilitator.

  2. Minutes of the previous meeting

    Regarding item 5, SCCP website, Kay Lacey (KL) informed the meeting that project cost estimates for the Pang, stated as additions to the website, could not be found.

    Regarding item 6, Projects, Mike Overall (MO) queried the phrase ‘but they were confidential at present’ referring to projects likely to be carried out by the Revive the Wye Group. The confidential status actually referred to aspects of funding available for projects at Little Marlow.

    Actions:
    1. RCF to check the availability of project costing estimates for the Pang and, if they are available, add to the website. If not they are not, to delete the reference to the Pang from the relevant text.
    2. RCF to amend the minutes of the 16/11/2017 meeting and revise the website accordingly.
  3. Collaborative working of the catchment partnership

    Foreseen as the major item on the agenda, the presentation and discussion of this issue occupied much of the meeting. RCF prefaced a presentation from Andy Slaney (AS) on the findings of a recent survey conducted by EA Head Office staff with a few remarks, noting the universal recognition that the catchment partnership had been problematic in terms of collaborative working and fading participation. RCF noted that he’d discussed earlier in January with Alison Love (AL) some practical measures that might help address this issue. Specifically, proposals for more structured agendas at future meetings of the Steering Group, flagged prior to the present meeting. This modest initiative seems to have proved helpful in other Catchment Partnerships, such as that for the River Kennet (hosted by Action for the River Kennet, ARK). And it could complement more fundamental changes that might emerge from the evaluation of collaborative working, reported by EA Head Office, which would be discussed this afternoon.

    AS continued with a presentation on the background to, and the main findings of, structured telephone interviews with members of the South Chiltern Catchment Partnership. The potential need for a review was triggered during due diligence work undertaken by the EA whilst administering Catchment Partnership Funding. Some issues were identified, substantiated in subsequent dialogue with the EA Catchment Coordinator and SCCP Host during the summer of 2017.

    The interview questions were developed by the EA, with the full support of the present SCCP Host. A total of nine telephone interviews were conducted by an EA Head Office team between December 2017 and early-February 2018. AS noted that is not uncommon to have problems in partnerships. Often, the issues relate to people and relationships. However, SCCP members expressed a negative overall opinion of the Partnership. The average overall performance score was 1½, where scores from 1 to 4 signify:
    1. – Not well at all, progress is negligible
    2. – OK but needs some significant improvement
    3. – Good but improvements are needed
    4. – Excellent.

    The spectrum of scores was narrow, ranging from 1 to 2. Follow up questions sought to explore partnership performance in certain key areas, using the same scale as above. Average responses were:

    a) Creating and agreeing ownership of the vision and catchment plan across the partnership – 1½
    b) Prioritising and action planning – 1 – a lack of clear, inclusive and visible process was reported.

    Regarding delivery, aligning and collaboratively as appropriate to organisation and action/measure, performance regarding the Wye and Pang were reported as OK/Good. But progress regarding the Thames was reported as unclear, whilst the purpose of the SCCP was also reported as unclear.

    AS’s presentation identified three key themes for the partnership’s further consideration, informing the meeting that the Evaluation Summary elaborates on each, i.e.

    1. Role of the South Chilterns Catchment Partnership?
    2. Role of the SCCP Host?
    3. Governance structures and ways of working?

    Time constraints meant that discussion at the meeting covered the first of these themes only – the role of the SCCP. KL opened the discussion with the observation that the South Chilterns Catchment comprises disparate geographical areas - the Thames, the Pang, and streams flowing from the South Chilterns into the Thames. The areas are discrete and the rationale for joining them into a single partnership is not obvious. KL considered, and AB concurred, that it may be better to align the Pang with the Kennet, in partnership terms, particularly as the CaBA website actually has “The Kennet and Pang” showing as one catchment already. It is confusing for anyone trying to find out about the Pang. However, Lesley Sproat (LS) noted that there are some similarities between the Pang and other South Chiltern streams. AB continued the discussion on catchment composition with the suggestion that the main branch of the Thames should be in a separate catchment. Jo Clark (JC) concurred.

    Developing these thoughts, AB, KL and JC suggested a reboot should be considered, with a reallocation of the catchment areas and boundaries, to better reflect catchment characteristics. They speculated how this might be achieved. AS observed that such changes could only be made in the medium term. First, a convincing case would need to be made to the EA that it would lead to better management. Secondly, the approach would need to coincide with the development of the RBMP3 cycle, linking in with stakeholder consultation processes and engagement plans over the next year or so. RBMP3 planning may start about June this year. AL noted that catchments are based on watersheds and the Pang does not discharge into the Kennet. AS suggested that catchment realignment would not be easy and that it might be more productive to focus on strengthening the role of the current partnership.

    KL complained that the CaBA website poorly represents the catchment, the Pang in particular. There are errors in the maps and text. AB and Mike Overall (MO) supported the observation. AS informed the meeting that the CaBA website is about to be redesigned. He suggested the partnership may amend the South Chilterns catchment details on the CaBA site through contacting Michelle Walker at The Rivers Trust via

    KL moved the discussion on to consider the purpose of the partnership. AB opined that its purpose is to deliver strategies at the partnership level, which should flow from a shared vision and objectives. Effort had been put into generating such a vision in the local workshops facilitated by Rowena Harris in February 2013, but the results of these had not been captured by the partnership. Alison Love (AL), MO and AB suggested the facilitator’s reports on these workshops be revisited by a small group initially. This could provide a basis for forming a catchment vision, set of objectives, strategies and then projects to deliver against the objectives. The Colne and other the catchments could be used as models for these. MO urged the adoption of a simple matrix framework to capture the complex array of different interests and objectives in a structured manner. AS observed that care would need to be taken to ensure that the different needs of partners were taken into account. JC suggested that partnership participation in one of her LANDWISE workshops, addressing natural flood management, could also form a useful adjunct to this process – notice of at least three months would be given and several people could attend. AL suggested identifying multi-benefit, theme driven objectives where possible, in line with Defra thinking. Several participants suggested that the catchment vision and objectives should be set wider than simply compliance with the Water Framework Directive. A bottom-up approach was supported, focusing on thematic issues rather than the purely geographical. Catchment-wide goals, such as fish passage at weirs, should be added to the catchment plan.

    There was a general consensus that the Partnership should seek to engage with River Thames stakeholders, including the River Thames Trust, River Thames Alliance, and the River Thames Society. Whilst agreeing with the intent, MO cautioned we should first clarify the scope of the Partnership’s objectives before approaching other bodies. There was general agreement that we should reengage with Thames Water, which participates actively in other catchment partnerships. A wider cross-catchment partnership meeting for the Upper Thames in future was also suggested, as a means of fostering wider relationships and building capacity.

    Actions:
    1. RCF to circulate to members the EA’s SCCP Evaluation Summary with the draft Minutes of this meeting.
    2. The partnership to contact Michelle Walker at the Rivers Trust to amend the mapping and textual information concerning the South Chilterns catchment on the CaBA website. KL, RCF and AL to meet/liaise and agree an approach.
    3. RCF to extract the facilitator’s reports on the workshops of 2013 and circulate amongst the Partnership.
    4. RCF to invite volunteers to form a small group tasked with (i) reviewing the above workshop reports, the Colne and other catchment websites, and (ii) preparing a draft vision with objectives for the consideration of the wider catchment partnership.
    5. The partnership to form a small task force to reappraise the inclusion of the Pang in the South Chilterns Catchment as opposed to the Kennet Catchment. And, if the task force concludes the Pang sits better with the Kennet Catchment, to initiate discussions with the Kennet Partnership.
    6. The partnership to consider how we might engage more actively with Thames Water and other R Thames stakeholders.
    7. RCF/AL/Partnership to add “catchment wide goals” to the catchment management plan.
  4. Proposed Water Environment Grant (WEG) Scheme AS presented a summary of the proposed Water Environment Grant scheme, utilising a PowerPoint presentation made at a CaBA workshop a week earlier. Derived from an EU programme, the three-year scheme may disburse £9 million a year. Major points of interest include the following:

    • Attend the Local EA/NE workshop, when announced, to get full information
    • Projects must relate to a rural area – suggestion that potential bids should be tested with Natural England (Charlotte Elliott) and our catchment coordinator (AL)
    • Bids may be made by charities, not for profit organizations, and a number of other organizations
    • Permissions have to be in place before the first payment can be made [unclear as to whether the costs of obtaining these would be reimbursed]
    • Match funding is not allowed but projects can be structured to be complimentary to other projects
    • Payment is in arrears against proven progress and deliverables – up to four invoices may be presented in a given year
    • Candidate projects will gain additional prioritization scoring if they are on the partnership’s catchment plan
    • A feasibility study may form a suitable project for funding under WEG
    • There is no minimum or maximum project size (value)
    • A number of smaller or sub-projects may be packaged together, subject to good presentation
    • There are no quotas for project types – the scheme is an open, competitive system
    • Projects will be subject to audit
    • The timescale for submission of bids is tight. A briefing to catchment hosts in March (20th) will provide more definitive information, but bid submission could be required around mid-May 2018. Whatever bidding window is eventually set, this will be the only opportunity this coming financial year. There are no guarantees that other bidding windows will be opened in future years.

    Partnership members raised a number of questions, which AS answered as far as he could. AB emphasised, again, the lack of time available for bids to be put together.

    Actions:
    1. RCF to circulate to partnership members the WEG Scheme presentation with the draft Minutes of this meeting.
    2. RCF to attend a WEG meeting (scheduled 20 March) organised by the EA, at which a more detailed briefing on the scheme will be provided, together with an application handbook.
    3. RCF to contact partnership members for a list of candidate projects, for prioritisation by the partnership and review at the next steering group meeting.
  5. Closure

    Owing to the extensive discussion on items 3 and 4, other agenda items were not considered at this time. The meeting closed at 5:00 pm.

  6. Date of next meeting.

    To be arranged for mid-late April.

    Russell Charles Frost 12/03/2018

16/11/17
27/06/17
17/03/17
11/10/16
27/03/14
10/09/13
22/04/13
20/02/13
Pang Meetings
Thames Meetings
Wye Meetings