Louth Town Council - Working with the community to make Louth a better place to live and work

Minutes for the Town Council Meeting 27th February 2024


02-27-24 TC MINS





                                                    The Mayor, Cllr. J. Simmons (JS) (in the chair).


Present Councillors: Mrs. E. Ballard (Mrs. EB), M. Barnes (MB), L.M. Cooney (LMC), J. Drake (JD), H. Filer (HF), D. Hobson (DH), G.E. Horton (GEH), M. Lamb (ML), Mrs. K. Parsons (Mrs. KP), P. Starsmore (PS) and Mrs. P.F. Watson (Mrs. PFW).


Councillors not present: J. Baskett (JB), L. Frost (LF), Mrs. J. Makinson-Sanders (Mrs. JMS).


The Town Clerk, Mrs. L.M. Phillips, the Town Clerk’s Assistant, Miss S. Chitauro and Environment Agency (EA) Officers Mr. Paul Arnold, Catchment Engineer Operations Lincolnshire and Mr. Steven Coe, Flood and Costal Risk Management Advisor, were also present.


  • Apologies for Absence
    Apologies for absence were received from Cllrs. JB, LF and Mrs. JMS.
  • Declarations of Interest/Dispensations
    The following declarations were made:

    1. PS – Item 3 due to his partner working for the EA.

  • Presentation from Environment Agency (EA) Officers, Mr. Paul Arnold, Catchment Engineer Operations Lincolnshire and Mr. Steven Coe, Flood and Costal Risk Management Advisor.
    The Council received a presentation from Mr. Paul Arnold on the operation of Louth’s flood attenuation scheme (reservoir), which started with key information about the scheme and its purpose and stated that the previous chance of Main River flooding in any year was 5% (1 in 20), a statistic now lowered to 0.57% (1 in 150) in any year. Arnold told the Council that the scheme had reduced the flood risk for 185 properties at a benefit cost ratio of 4.9 and capital cost including contingency at £6.5million.  Mr. Arnold went on to explain that because of the relatively low cost benefit ratio, there had been a Partnership Funding approach to the scheme which involved funding from Lincolnshire County Council (£3.2m), Flood Defence Grant Aid (£1.24m), East Lindsey District Council (£0.5m), Lindsey Marsh Drainage Board Precept (£1m), Anglian Water (£0.3m) and an annual maintenance payment from Louth Town Council.  Mr. Arnold stated that the scheme took 10 years to complete from the Louth Flood of 2007 to the opening in July 2017.  He told the Council that the scheme had a passive design, meaning it did not require electricity to work, as the amount of water increases, the size of the hole through which the water flows changes to ensure that the flow going downstream remains the same.  Regarding the performance of the reservoirs, Mr. Arnold informed the Council that, during their operation, they had only twice operated at greater than 10% capacity, once in June 2019 with the south tributary being 12% full and in October 2023 with the north being 11% full and the south being 71% full.  He continued that Storm Babet in October 2023 had spurred a review in the performance, operation, and design of the reservoir.  Mr. Arnold told the Council that the maintenance activities funded by Louth Town Council included reservoir engineer inspections, deformation surveys, six grass cuts annually, monthly operational checks, six monthly instrumentation checks, annual hydroslide and weedscreen cleaner maintenance, three yearly electrical tests and future major interventions or replacement maintenance and electrical items.  A Councillor asked whether LTC may be called upon to pay for future major interventions or replacement maintenance and electrical items, to which Mr. Arnold replied that there was a sinking fund, and that, if there was not enough money from LTC contributions, the EA would make up the shortfall and confirmed that they would not ask LTC for more money.  It was also asked whether the measures that were in place were adequate and what would happen if the defence was breached.  Mr. Arnold answered that the dam was designed to overflow safely in an exceedance and the reservoir would overflow but would not breach.  It was then asked whether the EA could provide assurance that what had happened in Horncastle would not happen in Louth.  Mr. Arnold told the Council that, in Louth, the location of the control device was at the bottom of the barrier, meaning the flow would go down from the Wolds and straight through the control device of the passive design of the hydroslide.  At Horncastle, the river was diverted through a weir, meaning that the control devices were at a higher level than the lowest part of the valley, thus, another sluice gate was required at the lower-level outflow.  Mr. Arnold continued that that there had been a delay in the reservoir closing and, whilst the reservoir tried to alleviate the flooding, the amount of rainfall exceeded what the scheme was designed for.  A Councillor asked whether Mr. Arnold and Mr. Coe felt that the design was sufficient to accommodate such levels of rainwater, or whether they felt the design was dated, and asked whether they anticipated that it would increase by 75% in the first seven years.  They responded by saying that there was still sufficient capacity.  Mr. Coe said that it was difficult to answer regarding the anticipation of an increase of 75% but told the Council that they would always observe how each event performs and would check whether the standards changed.  He said that there was no indication that there was anything wrong with the performance of the reservoir.  Mr. Arnold added that the Louth scheme was initially for 1/100 probability occurrence in any one year but that the concerns over climate change had caused them to look at a cost-benefit of increasing to 1/150, which was deemed better value to the community.  He affirmed that they try to get the maximum they can from the available funds and told the Council that relatively small catchments are impacted more by intense rainfall than big rivers.  He continued his presentation, informing the Council that SUD’s schemes are the responsibility of the District Council to maintain and that a Field Team check regularly for blockages at trash screens and at Stewton Beck and clear as required.  Mr. Coe said that they do keep watch for any blockages, to which a Councillor replied that the blockages on Bridge Street were getting worse.  Mr. Coe responded that the EA acted under permissive powers which meant they often could not carry out as much work as they would like.  The Town Clerk asked when their last walkthrough of the river took place, to which Mr. Coe responded that it was around November 2023.  It was then asked whether the EA had noted any issues with crumbling brick work, and, if so, would they send letters of notification to the land owner, or was it expected that the land owner should take action without notification.  Mr. Coe replied that they would need to assess the consequences, but they would be unlikely to act if they believed it would not affect the risk of flooding.  He explained that, if the EA was to act on an issue, there would need to be enough benefit to invest public money, and that it could be difficult to generate cost-benefit to work on private land.  He stated that it falls on the riparian owners and that Lincolnshire County Council had produced localised guidance.  A Councillor expressed their concerns about attenuation ponds within her ward, stating that developers had given the pond to a management company who were to maintain it on a yearly basis, which residents contributed towards.  She stated that the residents in the immediate vicinity of the pond were making their contribution, however those further away were not, which subsequently meant that there was insufficient revenue to clean the pond.  Mr. Coe responded by saying that the County Council were increasingly trying to fill that gap and were to adopt certain features in future to prevent similar occurrences and that issues such as these needed to be fed back to the County Council.  A Councillor asked whether, in Mr. Coe and Mr. Arnold’s opinion, Louth’s growing population had had an effect on flood risk, and whether Louth was at its capacity.  Mr. Coe replied that new building should not add stress to the capacity, and the EA were monitoring developments and working with ELDC on planning policies as advisors.  Another Councillor asked why the EA did not comment on planning applications, to which Mr. Coe responded that they comment on all applications that they are bound to but would not provide consultation on anything that was not in a flood zone or comment on certain types of management unless it was directly into a main river.  Cllr. DH, who was Louth’s Flood Warden, asked why, in October 2023 during Storm Babet, was the flood alert not raised until 1.45pm, which he deemed to be too late, and why the online flood tracking system was not updated for hours.  Mr. Coe agreed that the flood alert was raised too late and explained that the flood warning system had been on an automated system due to national industrial action.  He explained that, in theory, when the threshold had been reached, the automated system should have sent an alert.  This did not happen, and Mr. Coe said he was unsure why.  He said that now, the system works semi-manually and that the gauge is monitored every 15 minutes.  If the gauge goes over, an alarm is triggered in a control centre which would reach the duty officer who would then check the system and prepare an alert usually within 30 minutes of the threshold being passed.  Mr. Coe stated that Louth was often challenging due to how rapidly the level rises.  He also informed the Council that the EA would only release flood alerts during social hours, usually between the hours of 8 or 9am to 7 or 8pm, however they would issue flood warnings at any time of the day.  Cllr. DH then asked whether they felt that the current threshold for a warning was sufficient or whether they felt it should be lowered, to which Mr. Coe responded that it needed to be looked into, but warned that the lower the threshold is, the more often the alarm would go off, which could lead to people potentially ignoring it in future.  Cllr. DH asked whether Mr. Coe and Mr. Arnold would revisit community work in the town in order to prepare people in future.  Mr. Coe accepted that it had been a while since there was community engagement but told the Council that it was not their direct responsibility so lacked resources for conducting it.  He said that there were other mechanisms to warn the public, such as automatic mobile alerts.  A Councillor enquired as to what measures the EA were taking to help farmers in the area.  Mr. Coe explained that they were not directly involved but there were groups and partnerships with the NFU, which had the attention of government ministers and drainage boards, who were looking for sustainable solutions.  A Councillor then asked how much funding had been cut since 2023, to which Mr. Coe replied that they had a fund for capital programmes of £5.2 billion every 6 years, and that there was a maintenance fund of approximately £10.5 million from national government, which was £0.5 million less than the previous year.  Mr. Arnold told the Council that prices had previously been fixed for 6 years but that this was no longer the case, and the cost of doing work had increased by 30%, meaning that they would need to prioritise maintenance work.  The Council thanked Mr. Coe and Mr. Arnold for their attendance.


  • Deputy Mayor 2023/24 (Mayor Elect 2024/25)
    The Council noted that it found itself in an unusual position due to the passing of Deputy Mayor Cllr. Sue Crew and were therefore required to receive nominations for recommendations of Councillors to fill the post of Deputy Mayor for the remainder of 2023/24. The Council were reminded that this decision would not be ‘set in stone’, being more of a gentleman’s agreement, and would be subject to a formal election at the Annual Town Council Meeting on 14th May 2024.  DH was nominated for the position of Deputy Mayor 2023/24 but Cllr. JS (current Mayor) made it known that she would like to continue as Mayor in 2024/25 (therefore, she could not also be Deputy Mayor in 2023/24).  It was agreed that the Council should move to the next item on the agenda on the assumption that whoever won the role as Deputy for 2024/25 would assume the position early, serving for the last three months of 2023/24.


  • Deputy Mayor Elect 2024/25
    The Council received nominations for Deputy Mayor Elect in 2024/25 these being Cllrs. JS and DH and noted that Cllr. JS wished to carry on as Mayor in 2024/25 and that Cllr. DH also wished to take on the role. It was agreed that a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ needed to be reached prior to a formal vote at the Annual Town Council meeting on 14th May so that arrangements for Mayoral Events could be commenced and a confidential vote was taken to establish who should be Mayor Elect for 2024/25, the other candidate to be awarded the position of Deputy Mayor Elect for 2024/25 and also the position of Deputy Mayor for the remainder of 2023/24.  It was RESOLVED that Cllr. JS should be Mayor Elect for 2024/25 and Cllr. DH should be Deputy Mayor Elect for 2024/25, also assuming the position of Deputy Mayor for the remainder of 2023/24. It was noted that:

    1. The Deputy Mayor historically ascends to the position of Mayor in the following Mayoral year e.g., Cllr. DH should become Mayor in May 2025.
    2. Candidates are expected to fulfil the role of Mayor as per the job description.
    3. The positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor would still be subject to formal election at the Annual Town Meeting on 14th May 2024.
  • National Grid Electricity Transmission – Grimsby to Walpole

Following discussion by the Planning Working Group on 12th February 2024 and the Planning Committee on 20th February 2024, the Town Council discussed the tabled draft corporate response to the National Grid.  The Council acknowledged that the infrastructure was necessary but would prefer it to be primarily offshore or underground.
It was RESOLVED to submit the tabled document as the Council’s formal corporate response.  It was further RESOLVED that the Council as a body should write to its local MP, Victoria Atkins to confirm it recognized that it was a needed infrastructure project but that it objected and would prefer it to be primarily offshore or secondarily underground.


NB: Cllr. JD wished it to be noted that he dissented from the majority view.

  • Next Meeting
    It was noted that the next scheduled meeting of the Town Council would take place on 19th March 2024.


The Meeting Closed at 8.48pm.




Signed_______________________ (Chairman)                Dated_________________________