As MP for the Vale of Clwyd, I have been made aware repeatedly of problems associated with the Rhyl Cut and Prestatyn Gutter, and the resulting impact on constituents. Both the Cut and Gutter are watercourses, and each is designated as a statutory ‘main river’. Often, sections are almost completely overgrown with vegetation, and issues include fly-tipping, litter, and stagnant water – with associated smells, flies and vermin. I am saddened to see the environmental and associated wildlife distress arising from these problems.
In February 2021, I created a petition relating to the ongoing maintenance arrangements for the Cut and Gutter, to demonstrate the level of concern among residents. This petition was signed by over 600 people. I presented the petition to the House of Commons in July 2021, to encourage key decision makers to act and commit to a more regular maintenance schedule for the entire lengths of the Cut and Gutter. The petition argued that the existing ownership rights should not prevent the creation of an effective system of oversight.
In October 2021, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) sent me a Briefing Note. NRW had completed three stages of work: it had undertaken flood risk modelling; drafted reports; and produced long-term management and maintenance strategies for the first time. This work carried out by the Flood Risk Management Teams was very welcome, but it largely overlooked concerns over littering and vermin.
Denbighshire County Council (DCC) Communities Scrutiny Committee have also considered the issues raised by the petition, although we await any action further to this.
Whilst DCC and its predecessor authorities have fenced off sections of the Cut and Gutter, apparently to prevent access to the watercourses, they state that as they have no ownership rights over the land, they have no responsibility for its maintenance. In terms of the law, it is the case that landowners on either side of the watercourse have this responsibility (‘riparian ownership’). However, there are significant practical as well as health and safety risks which would prevent most residents acting accordingly. This is partly because of the type of litter and waste that can be present. Indeed, it is also one of the reasons given by state agencies for not carrying out such work, even if they did so in the past.
Thus, there is a stalemate which I continue to challenge. Residents in Rhyl and Prestatyn, and visitors, require a permanent solution involving the regeneration of this environment which could also provide a haven for wildlife rather than home for vermin and rubbish.
In November 2021, I met representatives from NRW locally. I conveyed to them a list of specific problems which had been raised with me by constituents. While the new maintenance regime was planned for April 2022, this was still not expected to address all the environmental and amenity concerns.
In January 2022, following on from my meeting and contact with NRW, they sent me a summary of Maintenance Activities. They had identified rural sections of the Cut and Gutter where some vegetation (cutting) activity could be reduced (to every five years) while other areas would benefit from more frequent (twice annual) attention. Most sections were to remain with a cut once a year. NRW has produced a maintenance summary document which can be accessed below
In subsequent correspondence, NRW have stated they are progressing with work to identify areas along the Cut and Gutter where access improvements may be made to facilitate machine access. Relevant private landowners have consented to their proposals. They have also established contact within DCC for the local authority owned sections and have been discussing similar options with them. This should help improve ease of maintenance, while physical measures are also being looked at to make fly-tipping more difficult.
I have engaged with the Chief Executive of DCC on this matter and hope the work that NRW has already agreed to undertake moves the situation in the right direction. I will continue to highlight the problems with maintenance of the Cut and Gutter generally, in addition to as and when constituents contact me.
From September to November, NRW undertake its annual maintenance to sections of the Cut and Gutter. This consists of weed cutting to the watercourses and maintaining flood risk structures (including trash screens, flapped outfalls, and embankments) and the removal of blockages which have the potential to cause flooding, including trees.
In summary, NRW has adopted new maintenance plans but these are not sufficient to deal with all the concerns of residents whose properties are located near to the Cut and Gutter. The issues go beyond flood risk.
I have a meeting scheduled with NRW, DCC and Keep Wales Tidy, with a specific focus on the Cut and Gutter in the hope of further improvements.
In the meantime, I welcome any contact from constituents in connection with concerns about the environment of the Cut and Gutter.