March Society learn about the work of Middle Level Commissioners

The March Society?s March talk was led by speaker David Thomas (centre) who is chief executive offic

The March Society?s March talk was led by speaker David Thomas (centre) who is chief executive officer of The Middle Level Commissioners. Picture: JENNIFER LAWLER. - Credit: Archant

The chief executive officer of the Middle Level Commissioners gave a talk and presentation about the group’s work at The March Society’s latest meeting.

The society heard that, operating under several acts of parliament (one of which is 150-years-old), the commissioners’ main task is to manage the region’s waterways.

This includes preventing flooding, providing engineering advice to internal drainage boards and giving consent and planning advice for the 120 miles of watercourses.

Their work involves the maintenance and improvement of the watercourses, pumping stations, weirs and sluices.

Much of the agricultural land in Fenland is now four metres below sea level due to the continual shrinkage of the peat over the past 400 years.

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This shrinkage (about half an inch per year) is problematic for sustaining vital drainage.

However, the drainage has been greatly improved since the building of the new St Germans pumping station eight years ago.

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It is Europe’s third largest (the two larger ones are in Holland) and it automatically monitors data about water levels and equipment - making any adjustments when necessary.

Middle Level staff can keep a check on the smooth running of the station from anywhere in the world using secure software in their laptops.

The commissioners also have a statutory duty relating to nature conservation and they now work with other bodies on restoration and environmental projects.

Mr Thomas said that a forthcoming act of parliament will provide the commissioners with further powers and income.

He hopes these may be partly used to improve leisure and other facilities for the benefit of waterway users.

Funding for the work of the commissioners is largely from rates and levies imposed on occupiers of agricultural land together with a levy collected locally from Fenland District Council.

The March Society’s next meeting is on Wednesday April 10 at 7pm in March Library.

The speaker will be Alan Palmer on ’25 Years of Gault Wood’, the March woodland which was planted in 1994 and is celebrating its quarter century.

Everyone is welcome. Admission costs £2 for members and £3 for non-members, including refreshments.

Visit or email for more information.

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