Part of my weekend is given over to preparing for the week ahead, mainly reading documents and writing my blog! This weekend I was reading through papers for this Friday’s meeting of the County Council, and the final draft of the flood report before it is published this week.
Your first thought may be if the floods happened in June, how come the report took six months? A not unreasonable question. The answer is that after the flooding, as the Local Lead Flood Authority, we have had to prepare the report working with all partners, including the Environment Agency, Southern Water, the Flood Forum, District Councils and Parish Councils in the worst affected areas - nine detailed in the report. And not only gathering information, but site visits, drain inspections and taking evidence.
During the floods on the 10 and 11 June, 800 homes were affected by flooding, some very badly and there are some cases, including in my division, where residents will not be in their homes for Christmas or are just moving back in now. For those who have been flooded it is a deeply traumatic event and takes a long time to recover.
The report is informative in detailing the extreme weather conditions where in parts of the coastal area there was two months’ worth of rain in just 12 to 24 hours. Bognor Regis and Chichester recorded 430% over average rainfall for June.
This, compounded by heavy rainfall from April onwards, meant the land was saturated and the water had nowhere to go, so most of the flooding was down to the surface water.
Each of the nine areas detailed in the report have their own unique set of circumstances and there are recommendations and actions for each area.
However, there is one common thread and that is the ditches. Many have become overgrown, some have been filled and others have been used for fly tipping. Ditches are there to take away excess water. With current dry spells over the last few years, in some cases they have become neglected. However it is good to hear that after the flooding, many riparian owners – people who own land or property next to a watercourse such as a river, stream, or culvert - are taking action to clear the ditches.
There is a recommendation for community action such as Local Flood Wardens which has been well received by many communities, and they would play an important role in checking ditches and drains.
Reading through the report, there is a lot of information. We know that there are things we should have done better on the day, such as warnings, incident updates and information flow, and work is already underway to ensure that we improve. Like all such extreme events, they test an organisation like it has never been tested before. The most important thing is that we learn and improve.
Over the years the weather patterns have changed, with longer droughts and heavy intense rainfall which can cause havoc. We as a County Council need to be fast to respond, quick to communicate and flexible to the demands. The Flood report is the start.