6 Jun 2009

Flood group seeks holistic strategy

The Stroud News and Journal reported this week the positive talks between BARFF (Bridgend Against River Frome Flooding) and the District Council. This is good news - BARFF are a member of the recently set up Stroud Valleys Water Forum and we had a discussion about how we can all work more closely together to find solutions for the flooding problems in the Five Valleys. See more re Forum below.

Photo: Rainbow over Ruscombe Brook

I suspect there are few, who have looked into this issue seriously, who still see that the solutions lie in the old approach that only seems to add to the problems - but there is still much work to be done to get that understanding across to all the various agencies and embedded into policies. BARFF (Bridgend Against River Frome Flooding) like many of us in the Ruscombe Brook Action Group and others see that this old approach of tackling flooding, valley by valley, only leads to more problems.

Members of BARFF met Jon Beckett, Environmental Health Chief, and Maria Hickman, Housing Renewal Manager, to discuss flooding in the Stonehouse area - and by all accounts it sounded like a positive meeting with the District keen to find holistic solutions - that has also been my experience of the District.

However BARFF are understandably concerned that flood money is being spent on schemes like in Painswick which some consider might speed up flows of water and add to flooding further downstream. District Council officers note that they have been given assurances that this is not the case but for me there are still questions around the whole process - clearing a stream and culverts will speed up water - that is not to say those measures should not go ahead but the impacts need to be more clearly researched - I don't consider what I have seen so far to be satisfactory - but I am open-minded that that may have been the case - but for me it highlights that we urgently need a strategy that covers the whole catchment and clearly seeks to assess the impact of any works.

BARFF secretary Tim Davies is quoted in the BARFF press release saying: "It was a positive meeting and we feel that they were behind the main points of our campaign". Here is the rest of their news release:

Mr Davies said BARFF wanted to lower part of the road between Stonehouse and Stanley Downton to prevent water backing up in some meadows while others remained comparatively free of flooding. He also stressed that the group was disappointed that £89,000 had been spent in a survey and remedial works in the Painswick valley without adequately considering the effect it would have downstream.

"It is ridiculous to have a piecemeal approach. We need to consider the Frome catchment area as a whole" Mr Davies said. "It is essential that Local Authorities and the Environment Agency back a survey looking at the whole area before any more money is spent on work upstream of Stonehouse; after all, all the water falling in the valleys flows past our homes. At our meeting the District Council officers seemed happy to support this point of view. BARFF have been told the County Council has a pot of money for flood defence works, and we believe that it could be best used on schemes that benefit the entire Stroud area. It does seem strange that money is being given to areas which are threatened with flooding far less frequently than Bridgend. Every time there is a severe weather warning we fear for our homes."

Stroud Valleys Water Forum

We had our first meeting a while back - see here - and since then a second meeting which I've not had a chance to note here. We were able to feed back activities from each of the groups like Slad making progress on attenuation and Ruscombe's walk up the valley and attempts to get problems sorted at Puckshole - still on-going - indeed had more calls this week - hopefully more news soon!

We are also looking at meeting with District Officers to see how best to integrate ideas into the Core Strategy so that flooding becomes a more key issue to be addressed in a more holistic way in developments - I already have had a provisional meeting and am hoping the next will be a chance to lay out more clearly what evidence we need to provide for the District.

And don't forget the Communiversity Conference on water - see more here. Plus Dirty weekend tomorrow at The Lawns.

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