Well I never, it came as a complete surprise to get a very late invitation from a County Councillor to attend, today, the Flooding Task Group Workshop of Surrey County Council. It was also my first ‘official’ visit to County Hall in Kingston-on-Thames.
The stated objectives of the Flooding Task Group Workshop were, 1. “to get a better understanding of the future plans and priorities of each organisation and where these will impact upon problems of flooding in the County”, and 2. “to investigate where partnership to address flooding problems working can work to the benfit of Surrey residents”.
Laudable objectives, and a thoroughly worthwhile meeting. Responsibilities for flooding lies with many differing agencies and authorities – so this sort of meeting is highly appropriate. Well done County.
The speakers at the workshop
A variety of qualified speakers, from Surrey County Council Highways Dept, the Environment Agency, Thames Water, Bellway Homes, and a Land Drainage Engineer from Runnymede Borough Council, provided valuable updates on regional and national strategy, actions taken, and planned actions.
Here’s what I learned:
- The big change in the last few years seems to be a move from clearing flood water away quickly to holding flood water back, I guess the change in weather patterns is partly responsible.
- Surrey County Council have created a ‘Wetspots’ database, collecting together in one place information on flooding locations in Surrey, their duration, severity, social impact, and quite a bit more.
- The ‘Wetspots’ database is connected to a geographic mapping system that puts maps and flood information together. Looks good. Data is essential to understanding flooding.
- Following the collection of data County Council engineers use a Prioritisation Process to assess safety, social impact and commercial considerations [I know there was one more factor, but my notes have proved ineffective].
- One recommended action is to take account of flood risk at the outline planning stage, so as not to have to take subsequent remedial action.
- The Environment Agency has a ‘Managing Flood Risk’ paper out to consultation, but because of insufficient flood defence budget, and clear strategic direction appear not to want to take any sort of lead regarding flooding, and are happy to leave it to local authorities.
- Interestingly, it’s possible for local authorities to take to themselves the same permissive powers as the Environment Agency to tackle flooding. I must investigate this further.
- Many actions to mitigate flooding can be taken by local authorities, with swales, bunds, ditches, balancing ponds, boreholes and the like, used to hold back water.
- Many of the small flood amelioration actions are not costly.
- Land Drainage Engineers are a vital resource for every local authority, and so if they’ve let them go as a cost-cutting measure, then that action should be reversed. These people are essential.
Added my threepence worth
Yep, I did manage to have a few brief words, and said, “how important it was for Councillors and residents to collect flooding data, including photographic evidence, and pass this to Borough drainage engineers. Knocking on residents doors often captures unrecorded data. Also, one helpful way of including flood risk assessment in the planning process was to use Village Design Statements, which are Supplementary Planning Documents, and can be adopted without waiting for a new Local Development Framework to be prepared.”
Methinks I’ll visit our Borough drainage enginneer to give him an update.