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Interesting feedback we hear about flooding

While engaging with communities which have flooded or are at risk of flooding, the comments and feedback we hear are similar.

Things we hear

In some areas there may be no documented flooding in recent living memory and a resident may have lived in the same property for over 50 years, telling us –

“It’s never flooded here before.”

Our climate is changing and we are experiencing more extreme weather events with more intense bursts of heavy rain and flash flooding. There may be no documented flooding, but perhaps the area has only been developed in the last 50-100 years and who knows what was happening before this!

“It just used to come to the bottom of the garden but it’s getting closer to the house nowadays.”

Lots of green areas in towns and cities have been built over with hard surfaces such as roads, pavements, carparks etc. Large amounts of rain falling in a short space of time can quickly lead to flash flooding. The surface water has to go somewhere and will take the easiest path and is channelled towards sewer networks which simply may not have the design capacity to cope.

“They used to dredge the river.”

Speeding up river flows by straightening or increasing the depth of the channel can be beneficial given the right circumstances. Removing gravel at pinch points such as under bridges may assist with flow and has flood risk benefits.

However, dredging would have a very limited effect on the massive amounts of fast flowing water from whole river catchments. Straightening and increasing depth of rivers will also increase flows and affect communities downstream of the area that has been dredged, potentially increasing their flood risk. It is worth remembering that after a flood event, new material is quickly deposited in the channel and may replace that which has been removed.

“What is being done to protect me and my property?”

There could be a variety of reasons why an area has flooded. The development of flood risk management schemes can take time, as there must be an appraisal undertaken to…

    • Clarify what has happened through modelling, site investigation and speaking to the local community.
    • Explore flood scheme options.
    • Present findings and provide detailed analysis for each of the options to the local community.
    • Examine the pros and cons for each option and use community feedback to help make decisions.
    • Compare possible solutions for effectiveness and deliverability.
    • Select the solution that is most economically viable, technically feasible, environmentally acceptable, and publicly agreeable.

 

“The drains need cleaning out”

When there has been a heavy downpour, river levels can be raised above that of surface water sewer outflows. In some circumstances, sewer outflows can’t discharge quickly enough and may back up and surcharge, causing sewer flooding. When you then consider “a months’ worth of rain in a few hours” (which we seem to hear quite often), the problem only gets worse. But this doesn’t mean that the sewers aren’t doing their job, only that the capacity of the system has been surpassed.

“They keep building more houses”

Communities are often perplexed when planning permission is granted for new developments on land that has experienced flooding or is historically a flood plain. We hear comments like “we never had any problems with surface water before the new housing estate was built up the road.”

Strategic flood risk assessments required for planning include a ‘sequential test’ which should direct development away from locations that have a higher risk of flooding, toward areas which have less risk.

History

It often comes as a surprise to some people that their property is at risk of flooding even when the place or street name quite obviously indicates a connection with water.

Duck Street, Longpool, Gooseholme (holm – a piece of flat ground by a river which is submerged in times of flood), River Street, Riverside, Rivers Way, Water Street and Brookside.  These may give an indication that at some point there has been water in the area. This may have been long before the area was developed, so hasn’t been reported!

Climate change coupled with increased development means that flood risk management can be challenging in many areas. Communities need to be aware of their flood risk and plan and prepare to  increase their resilience to future flood events.

Public expectations need to be managed realistically, as flooding can never be completely eliminated from an area even when a flood risk management scheme has been developed.

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