Flood alleviation works keep Surrey Heath safe from flooding

I’m worried that I’m tempting fate here, by saying Surrey Heath is well prepared for flood events at this time. Really, I should say the eastern part of Surrey Heath is well prepared, from the map below the River Blackwater and the Blackwater Valley have flood alerts.

Here’s the latest Environment Agency flood warning/alert map for our local area.

flood-map-jan-2017Readers here will, I’m sure will know of my keen interest in flood alleviation as Lightwater has in the recent past suffered from flooding. See HERE why its important, and most recent article on the subject HERE, if you’re interested.

I’m somewhat out of date on knowing where the most recent flood alleviation works have occurred, or are planned in the Borough. I’d better do some research. Will tell you what I’ve found.

The chairman of the Environment Agency resigns

Sir Phillip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency has resigned – see full details HERE.

Thames BarrierIt seemed to me to be the most likely result from his absence while remaining on holiday during the floods in England prior to Christmas. Here’s part of his stated reasons of resigning,

My reason for resigning is that the expectations of the role have expanded to require the Chairman to be available at short notice throughout the year, irrespective of routine arrangements for deputy and executive cover. In my view this is inappropriate in a part-time non-executive position, and this is something I am unable to deliver.

Furthermore the media scrutiny focused on me is diverting attention from the real issue of helping those whose homes and businesses have flooded, as well as the important matter of delivering a long-term flood defence strategy. This same media attention has also affected and intruded on my immediate family, which I find unacceptable.

Is it possible that one new condition will be added to the job specification – ‘Absence from duty while on agreed holiday is overridden when crises arise, such as floods or similar, then expected to end holiday immediately.’

Who’s had a good flood, and who a bad flood

Draining flooded drivewayI don’t mean this in an unkind way, as all floods are bad. Those people whose homes and businesses are flooded generally seek to organisations to blame as a focus of their anger. I know, as I’ve witnessed it.

Some individuals and organisations have has a ‘good’ flood, while others have had a ‘bad’ flood. Here’s my list, by no means exhaustive, and only from watching mainstream media,

  • Rory Stewart MP, government floods minister. Faced questions from the media and residents throughout the day of the floods in Cumbria. See more in the Daily Mail, and website HERE.
    • Very good flood: visible, knowledgeable, and does help, of course, to be the local MP in an area of extreme flood events which adds a bit passion.
  • Lt Col Hamish Cormack, CO of 2 Lancs – The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
    • In his Facebook message HERE, saying, “After 4 weeks of back-to-back support to flooding operations across the North of England the Bn is now back to being on standby to support whatever comes next. We have been at the forefront of the response to these unprecedented events, bouncing across the country to meet the next challenge. It has been an incredible experience; operating in the dirt and destruction of the flooding has been exhausting and often challenging but the way our people have approached it has been nothing short of amazing…..” 
    • Very good flood: visible, energetic, with terrific support from his battalion.
  • Sir Philip Dilley, chairman of the Environment Agency. Chose to remain on a family holiday in Barbados while the Agency struggled to manage to flood situation.
    • Very bad flood: Important to be seen, and to meet agency staff at each of the flooded areas.
  • Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, government cabinet minister for the environment. Faced questioning from the media and locals in York and Tadcaster.
    • Good Flood: As cabinet minister responsible a tough call to face locals whose homes and businesses flooded. Depends on your point of view as to whether she’s had a good or an OK flood. Has promised the replacement of Tadcaster Bridge as a national priority.
  • Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn, left visiting flooded areas for 5 days, and footwear not suitable for visiting flooded areas.
    • Bad Flood: A difficult role to be critical of government, yet supportive of volunteers. Tough call to visit or stay away – better to visit early in my opinion.
  • Pickering, a town in North Yorkshire in a deep valley has avoided flooding through careful and sensible flood mitigation.
    • Very Good Flood: to have avoided the floods.

Local investment in flood protection delivers

Last week locally we had some very rainy days, not quite deluges, but not far short.

Protection against flooding was probably my enduring concern while I served as a councillor on Surrey Heath Borough Council. [Type flooding in the search box to find the many, many posts on the topic].I’ve spoken before about the impact on me in talking Lightwater Streamto householders in Lightwater who’s homes were flooded two years running. The borough council’s drainage engineer put a flood protection plan in place and over eight years has ensured year-on-year improvement in that protection. I believe work is ongoing.

In standing down from the council I didn’t want to become a busybody afterward, and so I’ve kept out of local issues. I couldn’t entirely switch off from flood watch. I visited the Lightwater stream and found it very full, but not over-topping its banks. There are reports that some gardens and garages were flooded – though I don’t have the data.

The point of this blog post is to state, in my experience, that investment and actions in local flood protection has been both beneficial and effective.

Eventually got a meeting with our borough drainage engineer

When visiting the council offices I pass the borough drainage engineer’s desk and hope he’s there. Mostly not. Reason being he’s out supervising contractors or investigating where the water goes. I shouldn’t carp really. It’s my fault for not arranging a meeting.

Yesterday he was at his desk. Brilliant. I thanked him for the work being done in Lightwater Country Park. The weather is naturally inhibiting its completion [some concrete needed, apparently]. I found out from him that there’ll be two paths on the road side of Hammond lower pond. One alongside the road into the park, and a lower one near the pond edge for visitors to walk around the pond. Should look good when finished.

IMG_0638I showed him images on my camera of the surface water run-off from the Bisley and Pirbright ranges into the ditch alongside the Maultway, near its junction with Cumberland Road. The work last year digging out the ditches was to locate two drainage pipes from the ditch which run under the Maultway. These drain the water into – oops, I don’t remember what he said. Anyhow, the overtopping of the ditch onto the road with run off water from the ranges is now solved.

I left as a happy man, knowing that our resilience to flooding has been further improved.

Restructuring Hammond lower pond to improve flood protection

A reader placed a comment on my blog post – Some good news – pothole speaking, concerned that work on the lower Hammond pond in Lightwater Country Park might inhibit birds in their breeding season.

So, I journeyed to the Park to see for myself. It looks to me that the work is that which I suggested, to increase the capacity of the lower Hammond pond. The area around the upper Hammond ponds were sculpted in the last couple of years. The main purpose for doing so is enhanced flood protection as water from the M3 drains into the upper Hammond pond, and through the ponds to the Lightwater Stream. Below is my photo record of my visit walking round the pond.

I think the re-sculpting of the lower pond looks like creating a wildlife and bird sanctuary on the enlarged island in the centre of the pond. No cause for concern in my opinion, more that the work improves the country park. All the work done over the past years to improve Lightwater’s resilience to a recurrence of the floods of 2006 – 07 has made a real difference. In times of rain downpours, our drainage systems in Lightwater cope admirably.