12 Dec 2009

Flooding ramble: Bridgend, Water Bill, Foxes Field and more

This blog is a bit of a ramble from Bridgend to the new Water Bill...it starts with a questionnaire I completed from a civil engineering student in his final year of a degree at Nottingham Trent University.

Photos: nothing to do with floods but met these two great horses up in Randwick Woods the otherday

This blog means I get quite a few students contact me - two last month on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - anyhow this guy is writing his dissertation on the role of Flood Forums in Flood Management. A useful project indeed - however too often people don't have a voice on those forums or on flooding issues.

The recent Flood and Water Management Bill is a start and notes that the 2007 floods caused major disruption, particularly in Hull, Doncaster, Leeds and the Severn Valley causing £3 billion worth of damage, affecting 55,000 properties and the loss of 13 lives. Since then we've seen Morpeth, Cumbria and others. However I fear the Bill may not go far enough - the way we manage our land and increasingly climate change means we are set for many more problems.

Indeed Gloucestershire Councils all wrote a joint letter last month pointing to some of their concerns - here is some of what it said:
We note with great interest the recently published Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Paper (23 September 2009) reporting its views on progress to date on the new Flood and Water Management Bill. We are therefore disappointed to read that the Committee identifies that the current Draft Bill is a “confusing mix of measures many of them poorly drafted”.

We are profoundly concerned that the proposals in this Bill would bring about an over centralised model which, if introduced would significantly reduce the role of Local Government as a Community Leader, and place excessive power and influence with the Environment Agency. If enacted this Bill, based on the current EA flood risk investment strategy, would place the responsibility on the Environment Agency for 40% of the 5.2 million properties that are at risk of flooding and give them 90% of the resources. Local Government will pick up responsibility for 60% of the properties at risk from flooding with less than 10% of the resources. This at best can be described as perverse.

The joint model we have been operating in Gloucestershire was presented to the Select Committee by colleagues from Gloucestershire County Council putting forward the proposal of a Joint Catchment Flood Management Board, which has been identified by the Select Committee as having “much to recommend it”; yet to date this has been ignored by DeFRA.

Our principle concern (and that clearly reflected by the Select Committee) is that the Bill is being rushed and there is a likelihood that the outcome of such a Bill may well offer no significant improvement to where we are already.

It also has the potential to be an overcentralised model, which is likely to result in reduced value for money and greater remoteness from local communities. We ask that you explore our concerns and seek to ensure that any future Flood Bill is fit for purpose.

Bridgend flooding again

The local press reported flooding again at Brigend on the 29th/30th - one house was flooded and pumped out by the Fire Brigade, and the residents of a further 8 properties spent the night pumping flood water away from their homes desperately trying to stop the water getting in. This time they managed to avert serious damage to their homes and property, but clearly all suffered a great deal of stress and anxiety alongside a very busy and sleepless night.

The rainfall that weekend was not exceptional by any fashion, and yet Bridgend suffered again - moves are being made by agencies to look at the problems and now early January a meeting has been set up with Councils and the EA - I hope that comes up with a useful strategy.

Flooding in Severn Vale

The Potsdam Institute in Germany say their best guess is a one metre sea level rise this century, assuming three degrees warming, and up to five metres over the next 300 years - see more here. With figures like that it does mean we need to seriously look at any future developements - and existing flood plains.

The District planners already are talking to County colleagues about how to produce better climate change projections for the County/Stroud. This will hopefully lead to a better understanding of issues locally and help provide better evidence to support new policy approaches.

The immediate impact from tidal flooding is not likely to be great as the existing defences will largely cope with that and no development is likely to be promoted in those areas at risk alongside the River Severn in any case. The coastal defences issue is currently being considered via the Shoreline Management Plan currently being prepared by Halcrow (see here).

The impact of fluvial flooding arising from the backing up of rivers flowing into the Severn is less well understood and this could increase the risk of flooding from our 'main' rivers (Frome, Cam/Ewelme, Little Avon), but the extent of that impact is not known as far as I am aware. It is that sort of thing that the Council's work will help us understand.

Foxes Field

I've blogged before on this absurd plan to develop this last green field between Stroud and Stonehouse with over a 100 homes - see here - well the inquiry is over and we await the results. Graham Williams, a member of Fox’s Field Action Group, kicked off the inquiry, by setting out some of the reasons why not to develop the site - a key reason he gave was the risk of flooding on the field, which he said, would be greatly heightened by the proposed development.

Of course there are many other reasons that this site should not be developed like it would create a major change in the form, style and mass compared with the ‘ribbon’ development which has so far been built along this stretch of Ebley Road in a countryside setting close to the Cotswold AONB and the Cotswold Way. As the CPRE guy said: "It is clear that the development would be unsympathetic to the surrounding houses and would damage to some extent, arguably substantial or significant, this part of the countryside."

However of concern relating to this blog was the failure to make more of the flooding issue in the original objections. It seems the EA did not object for a number of reasons but did state that any flood risks arising from the development were to be outlined in a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA), for consideration solely of SDC and any resulting increase in flood risk be determined by SDC.

The action groups claim that the actual FRA as prepared for this proposed development was deficient in following respects like: it pays no regard to the large volumes of rainfall runoff entering the site from farmland further up Doverow Hill and actually attempts to infer that there is no drainage into the site; it therefore also fails to account for the additional runoff that presently attenuates within the topsoil where the proposed development is to be located; the FRA does propose a (partial) SuDS approach, only addressing some of the rainfall falling on part of the development area; the proposed (partial) SuDS approach will only capture approx 1/100 year rainfall event (the recent Cumbria event was 1/1000 - we have had 5 x 1/100+ events locally in last 3 years, and barely 100 years of meanful rainfall data exist for UK); the proposed (partial) SuDS here will attempt to soakaway into the deeper strata some of the captured rainfall, which will very quickly enter the River Frome as the site is only 120 m distant at 10 m elevation and thought to be free draining here; a new drain is proposed as a part of this proposal for excess drainage, where there was none before; this can only contribute further to the regular damage of property and critical risk of flooding downstream, arising solely as a result of this development; the FRA makes no attempt to account for the effects of additional drainage downstream - like the impact on Brigend.

SDC appear to have accepted the FRA from Barratts - despite the various concerns mentioned - this makes countering it difficult - but I hope the inquiry took on board these concerns.

Lastly two bits of good news

The Slad brook scheme to reduce flooding is set to start in January and the EA have rejected the plans at the Nailsworth Railway Hotel due to concerns re flooding.

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