Lessons learnt from proposed flooding project planned at the site of historic fortification in Breda

Lessons learnt from proposed flooding project planned at the site of historic fortification in Breda

For immediate release:   September 2014

 

One of the Floodcom partners has gained valuable experience in its attempts to get a controlled flooding project started at The Spinolaschans, an historic landmark, which lies to the north of the city of Breda and to the east of the river Mark.

Originally constructed by the Spanish army in 1624 as a siege position, today's Spinolaschans is a square, bastioned fortification with wet moats that run dry in summer and contain large amounts of woodland. Owned by the Dutch Forestry Commission, the Spinolaschans is part of the Zuiderfrontier (Southern Frontier), a defensive line running from the municipality of Grave, near Nijmegen, to Sluis in Zeelandic Flanders (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, the Dutch province to the south of the Schelde).

The project proposal incorporated the desire to reconstruct the Spinolaschans; an idea which had been on the cards for quite some time. In 2011, the Breda Municipality took the initiative to partially drain Krouwelaarshaven, a harbour basin located on the river Mark. This was done in consultation with the project developer and the Brabant Development Agency. In view of the loss of water storage, another location had to be found to compensate and the Spinolaschans was identified as a possible solution, as the water could be retained in the canals and on the land around the entrenchment.

In the past, the Rural Area Service had been deeply involved in the proposal, so, because of their knowledge of the area, combined with their experience regarding European subsidies, it was decided that they would work on the task of submitting an application.

However, as the project was being formulated, a number of divergent issues arose. As the primary aim of the project was to put the Spinolaschans and the Hartelberg estate to the north into use for water retention and eventual flooding, the private owner’s agreement had to be sought. Over an eighteen month period, there were regular talks with the family and in the end, they decided not to make their land available for the project. Their loss of privacy was deemed too great, partly under pressure from the other local residents.

This posed a dilemma for the project group. Should the project be cancelled or should they search for an alternative? Ultimately, for a number of reasons, the decision was made to go with the alternative location, namely to use only the Spinolaschans.

Tom Rozendal, Floodcom project partner representing the City of Bread commented: “One lesson that we can take from hindsight is that this decision may have been taken too hastily. There was insufficient time taken for consideration of all the consequences of going forward with the project. Disappointment with the idea that there might be no result was too great, and that seems to have led to a sort of organisational blindness.”

He continues: “It would have been more appropriate if all interested parties, under leadership of an independent chairperson could have had their say, and set out all the pros and cons. On reflection, interests were great and time constraints so significant that insufficient time was devoted to this.”

 

Quickly, the project became characterised by the will to work out answers to questions such as: can dike checks be carried out by car or on foot or how do we get the water into the entrenchment? In this, the most basic question was lost in the background, namely whether the Spinolaschans was suitable for water retention?

Tom commented: “Attention was paid too late to the entrenchment's ability to hold water and for how long. Dropping their norms in consideration of such a unique location, the Brabant Delta Water Agency, after internal consultations, indicated its opinion that 75% of the total water collection, approximately 13,000 m³, should be retained for a period of two weeks. In this, they diverged from their normal standpoint that actually 100% should be retained.”

This meant that there was no way of meeting the water agency's requirements, with the estimation being that only 50% would be retained in the Spinolaschans after two weeks.

As a last resort, there are, even now, ongoing investigations of alternatives so as to allow the project to still succeed. However, considering that the Spinolaschans is a national monument, none of the alternatives have presented valid options and the conclusion has to be drawn that the water assignment simply cannot be realised at the Spinolaschans.

“Another lesson learnt is that in hindsight, the pressure to realise the project using the entrenchment was too great. The parties really wanted the project to succeed and felt morally obliged to let it do so. As a result, there was a lack of calm and reflection, and no time was given to stop and ask whether we were on the right path, and if this was the right solution.

The Floodcom initiative is a European-funded project involving five partners across four European countries: from the UK, Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council; from Belgium, Waterweegen en Zeekanaal NV, in Antwerp; from France IIW, in St Omer; and in the Netherlands, the City of Breda.

Floodcom promotes positive water management in European lowland areas facing climate change. All partners come together in regular meetings to share best practice and the technical learning from their projects.

Floodcom is hosting a conference, "Sharing Best Practice on Flood Alleviation", in Antwerp, Belgium on Wednesday 24th September 2014. The one-day conference is free to attend and topics covered will include climate change, the social impact of flooding, and responses to flooding. Information about this and other aspects of the Floodcom initiative are available at www.floodcom.eu.

-ENDS-

For further information on Floodcom: Please contact Sue Wilcock at Trebuchet on 01473 213000 or email sue@trebuchetcreative.co.uk;