Contraction of the Board

The 1952 Act permitted the Board to employ staff members to provide surveying and administration services to the Board as required. From 1952 the Board maintained its own office premises and staff at 41 Chester Way, Northwich.  The Board’s staff members were initially made up as follows:

  • Chief Officer and Clerk to the Board (1 No.)
  • Assistant Chief Surveyor (1 No.)
  • Building Surveyor (1 No.)
  • General Survey Team (3 No.)
  • Administrative Secretary (1 No.)

The introduction of the controlled pumping brinefield at Hill Top Farm, along with the established field at Holford and the policy of Cheshire County Council to control and reduce surface subsidence led to changes in the size and staffing of the Board. Following the cessation of the majority of the natural pumping in the 1970’s, the Board established a network of precise monitoring stations in areas where ongoing subsidence had previously been observed, and bi-annual surveys were carried out in the transition period from natural to controlled brine pumping between circa 1980 and 1983.  The monitoring results indicated a rapid recovery to levels of subsidence generally no greater than that recorded due to seasonal fluctuations over the three year period.

With the cessation of the majority of the natural pumping, the Board members decided that workload levels were sufficiently reduced as not to require retention of staffing levels and in 1983 the staffing structure was reduced to Chief Officer, Building Surveyor and Administrative Secretary.

The ad-hoc and uncontrolled nature of the method of natural brine pumping and its occurrence over a period of circa two centuries prevented any detailed evaluation of the actual process and subsequent brine run characteristics, and there were no methods of predicting where and to what extent surface subsidence would occur. Although monitoring by precise surface levelling was widely utilised by the Board from the mid-1950’s to the 1980’s, no previous survey monitoring records are available. Comparison of various editions of National Grid and County Series Ordnance Survey plans can give indications of changes in level since the late 1880’s but only on a fairly crude scale, and assumes that all benchmarks were in stable areas. Unlike other methods of mineral extraction, it is not possible to map the location of brine runs other than following lines of damage.  Whilst the 1980’s monitoring identified a general cessation of natural brine pumping induced movement within say a 3-year period, it is believed that exceptional circumstances can result in movements occurring over greater periods of time.  The Board continues to receive claims for compensation but in significantly reduced numbers.  In determining causation of damage, consideration needs to be given to potential alternative causes of ground movement including natural seasonal movements, natural brine flows, and other forms of water abstraction for example, along with structural defects in the buildings and adverse ground conditions.

With the reduction in natural pumping and the lower brine rate levied for controlled pumping, the Board’s income from pumping revenues has significantly reduced. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s there was a concerted effort to discharge all the Board’s extant liabilities by a process of property inspection, repair, and closure of Notices of Damage.  In 1994 the Board dispensed with its own staff and premises, and its day-to-day duties were discharged by staff from Cheshire County Council.  At their behest, Cheshire County Council ceased to discharge the Board’s duties in 2006 since which the Board has outsourced the management of their statutory duties to the private sector.