DfI/2018-0257: EIR Request for information relating to progress on emergency works on the designated watercourse known as the Craig River in October 2017

Date published: 04 October 2018

DfI/2018-0257: EIR Request for information relating to progress on emergency works on the designated watercourse known as the Craig River in October 2017.

The specific request is as follows:

Details

Thank you for the information regarding the Dennet (Craig) River forwarded by yourselves dated 9th May 2018 in relation to the above. Our client is most anxious to resolve matters and indeed our client enquires as to the overall progress being made in order to reach an appropriate resolution. Our client instructs that he was advised that all endeavours would be made to deal with this matter and we are undoubtedly in the phase of weather which is wholly appropriate to having matters addressed. We further understand our client has been in contact, as requested by your representative, to advise when the conditions are appropriate for remedial works. Our client did so but has seen no progress to this point.

Much of the information as originally requested by our client does not appear to have been supplied. Please see below list of outstanding information. We note your previous remarks in relation to the information not being released under EIR Reg 12(5) (e). We assume this relates to the sub-contractor rates and understand the need for same. If any of this information cannot be supplied, please state expressly how it breaches the Data Protection Act 1998, in each case. We are instructed that Mr Sean O'Neill stated at a meeting with you on February 2018 that this would be a transparent process and offered to provide our client with any information required regarding the works and procedures.

  • Plans, specifications and any other relevant information/instructions issued to the Contractor prior to works commencing. None of this details has been supplied to date as we understand.
  • Plans, specifications and any other relevant information/instructions issued to the Contractor during the works. None of this detail has been supplied.
  • Name of Contractor, machine operators and person in charge on behalf of Contractor. None of this detail has been supplied.
  • Dates of each day worked on subject portion with breakdown of personnel, machinery used and works carried out each day. We note a table supplied which typically gives a description of works each day as ‘Continue River clearance upstream’. We consider that additional detail is required in relation to location of works each day, hours worked, work carried out, when the new embankments were created, when Rivers Agency staff first witnessed Whitemountain’s work constructing same etc.
  • Confirmation of who was responsible for issuing instructions to Contractor on behalf of River’s Agency before and during works.
  • Confirmation of who was responsible for overseeing works on behalf of River’s Agency.
  • Details of site visits made by Rivers Agency staff during works.
  • Copies of all River’s Agency staff’s contemporaneous notebooks/diaries who oversaw the work.
  • Details of any consents provided to all or any parties adjoining the river over the course of the works to create any embankment or other structure.
  • Meeting notes to be provided from a meeting on 2//11/17 between our client, George Thompson, Bryan Stewart and Michael O’Donnell. We are instructed that it was agreed at this meeting that Rivers Agency would remove banking. Our Client has not been provided with meeting notes from any of the three Rivers Agency staff present at this meeting or for that matter any other meetings, inspections, calls etc. with the exception of Mr O’Neill’s notes.
  • Meeting notes from Bryan Stewart from site meetings, informatives to contractor etc.
  • Meeting notes from Stephen Buchanan from site meetings, informatives to contractor etc.
  • Notes from Rivers Agency site inspection 21/10/17, two days after embankment construction was completed by Rivers Agency contractor.
  • Confirmation as to whether any third party and in particular Mr Joseph Kerlin engaged certain parties to conduct certain works to the river bank.

In addition we require clarification on the following issues:

  • Your letter of 9th May 2018 refers to ongoing negotiations relating to the removal of stockpiled material from the bank of the Craig River. Firstly, we understand that the material is not stockpiled but forms a c.320m long embankment on the southern bank of the river. Secondly we had not been informed of any negotiations to remove the material. Please provide us with details of these negotiations and progress to date. As this illegal embankment directly affects our client’s lands, we consider that our client should also be involved and updated on any discussions and negotiations?
  • Rivers Agency staff have asserted that the 3rd party landowner liaised with the contractor directly to construct the banking. If this is the case, we consider that the 3rd party landowner has acted contrary to Sch.6 Art. 32 1 (f) of the Drainage (Northern Ireland) Order 1973, and therefore in accordance with 5 (b) of the schedule; ‘the Ministry may remove, alter or pull down any works in relation to which any contravention is or has been committed, and may recover from that person the expenses incurred in doing so’. At a site meeting of 13th February 2018, we are advised that Mr Sean O’Neill stated that Rivers Agency wanted the banking removed but were not legally permitted to remove same without taking enforcement/legal action. This seems at odds with the Order, can this issue be clarified please?
  • In Mr O’Neill’s meeting notes of 14/9/17, can you clarify which properties Mr O’Neill is describing in each paragraph?
  • Within the 14/9/17 notes, Mr O’Neill states he agreed with the 3rd party landowner that gravel could be provided to form flood defences around his house, ‘provided that the flood water conveyance across the floodplain was maintained.’ We enquire as to how it was possible then for a for a bank to be constructed on the floodplain which was overseen by Rivers Agency staff and carried out by Rivers Agency contractor? We are instructed that at a meeting in September your Mr O’Neill expressly stated that the floodplain had to be maintained and that no embankment was to be built alongside the river. Accordingly, we enquire as to how this reconciles with what we understand to be and instruction from your Mr Buchanan to a Contractor to construct a flood defence.
  • Mr O’Neill’s notes from 2/1/18 meeting with our client appear to be vague on much of the important detail discussed. Can a more detailed version be supplied? Our client’s notes from same can be exchanged if required.
  • At the meeting of 13/2/18, Mr O’Neill stated ownership of gravel and excavated material would be determined by Land Registry folio boundaries. Please see map attached from JD O’Hagan Consulting Engineers showing relevant LR boundaries. This shows that the majority of the excavated material came from our client’s folio and furthermore that some of the constructed bank is within our client’s folio. We welcome your comments on same.
  • When our client spoke with Mr Buchanan on 24th October 2017, following commencement of construction of the embankment, he said material was being stockpiled awaiting a tracked dumper to arrive. We enquire as to why the material was not removed when the tracker dumper arrived on site on 26/10/17?
  • We understand that Mr Buchanan also stated that there would be enough gravel for everyone, yet all the gravel remained on the 3rd party landowner’s side of the river, even after the tracked dumper arrived. Can this be explained also?
  • On Pg.5 of the Whitemountain Flood Repairs Works document, it states ‘No instructions to be taken from Local Farmers on work to be carried out’. Rivers Agency have stated that the 3rd party landowner liaised with Whitemountain employees directly to construct embankment. Have Rivers Agency staff brought this to Whitemountain’s attention and what actions have been taken?
  • Whitemountain’s method statement states that ‘should material removal be required to deepen areas of the river, silt will be removed and stockpiled and gravel returned to the riverbed’. We consider that the works on site are in breach of this statement. Can you confirm what actions were taken against Whitemountain when Rivers Agency staff supervising the works saw the construction of the embankment on the floodplain taking place with excavated material and why no action was taken to stop same as the 320m structure would not have been constructed overnight?
  • On Pg.7 of the Whitemountain document it states a site walk was to be held prior to leaving site with Rivers Agency staff, to ensure satisfaction with the site reinstatement. Did this take place and if so please provide minutes of same and clarify how the illegal embankment created by the 3rd party landowner/Whitemountain was addressed.
  • We are advised that Mr Bryan Stewart stated at the site meeting in February ’18 that the 3rd party landowner was requested verbally to remove the banking. Please provide contemporaneous notes to indicate when Rivers Agency staff noticed the embankment being constructed by their contractor and what actions were taken, including the aforementioned verbal request. Please also let us know what follow-up was carried out by Rivers Agency regarding this request and explain why a written request was not deemed appropriate.
  • Mr O’Neill informed our client on 13/2/18 that the banking to the land downstream from him would be removed by Rivers Agency, and he was to contact him when weather/ground conditions were suitable. Having chased this up repeatedly, our client finally received an email from Mr George Thompson on 15/6/18 stating that ‘Infrastructure (DfI) Rivers would like to inform you that access agreements are on-going with the parties involved and DfI lands officer staff. When terms have been agreed works will commence, pending weather conditions and resources available.’ We kindly ask that you clarify what these ‘works’ are and whether the ‘works’ were to be undertaken upstream or downstream.
  • When this work was carried out, who instructed same? What land agreements/access agreements were in place with the 3rd party landowner? What access agreements are currently being progressed, with whom and at what stage are they at? 
    Mr O’Neill stated that the work would be carried out when weather conditions allowed. He did not say it was subject to further agreements or resources. In circumstances where the banking is illegally constructed on a floodplain by Rivers Agency/Rivers Agency contractor, why is there a delay in removing same? What authority and proposals do Rivers Agency have to enter onto lands to rectify their own incorrect work which adversely affects a floodplain? Please furnish previous land/access agreement for subject portion when banking was constructed.

Most recently we have been advised that your Mr O’Donnell contacted out client last week suggesting that our client remove the banking which is downstream from him together with a “shrubbery” which we understand was to be mulched onsite with Rivers Agency meeting the cost of same. Please advise how this reconciles with the current position also?

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