Agenda and minutes

Kent Flood Risk Management Committee - Monday, 17th July, 2017 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Andrew Tait  03000 416749


No. Item


Membership and Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 52 KB

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The Committee noted its Terms of Reference and membership.


Minutes of the meeting on 6 March 2017 and 25 May 2017 pdf icon PDF 134 KB

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(1)       Mr Harwood informed the meeting in respect of Minute (3) that a recent permission granted by Maidstone BC for an economic development application had delivered 25 acres of new flood plain woodland within the corridor of the River Beult as part of a section 106 developer contribution.   This demonstrated that there were means of delivering rewilding for flood mitigation, landscape and biodiversity other than direct capital funding.


(2)       RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meetings held on 6 March 2017 and 25 May 2017 are correctly recorded and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Introduction to the work of the Committee pdf icon PDF 86 KB

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(1)       Mr Tant introduced the report by saying that it was appropriate at the start of the new Council to bring forward suggested topics for future consideration.   He referred to paragraph 6 of the report and said that, although Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) were a very important topic, there had been no significant change since the previous occasion when it had been discussed.   In his view, it would be better to consider a report when once a change either occurred or was proposed.  


(2)       Mr Bowles commented that the first 5 topics in paragraph 6 of the report were all very important. He made particular reference to “the role and structure of the Environment Agency.” 


(3)       Mr Pugh said he was particularly keen to consider a report on coastal erosion risk and management. 


(4)       Mrs Brown said that it was very important to have a firm understanding of the role and structure of the Environment Agency as their work was crucial whenever flooding took place.   For this reason, the Committee should aim to monitor this question on a regular basis rather than rely on very occasional reports.  


(5)       Mrs Doyle commented that reports on the role of the Internal Drainage Boards would encourage them to play a full part in the wider work of the Committee. 


(6)       Mr Tant explained that the Environment Agency de-maining project Kent pilot related to their identification of a number of hitherto main rivers as posing a low level of risk.   They had therefore identified 5 pilot areas in England (including Kent) where they were planning to “de-main” some main rivers in order to return them to the status of ordinary watercourses, allowing them to be maintained by other authorities such as IDBs.  One of the pilot areas was within the River Stour IDB, which was expected to finish in the Autumn.  A report to one of the next two Committee meetings would be appropriate.  Mr Tant clarified that this did not apply to the River Stour itself, which would retain its main river status.


(7)       Mr Harwood informed the Committee that the Environment Agency had recently named Duncan McClintock as their Liaison Officer with Kent County Council for resilience and emergency planning matters.   


(8)       Mr Harwood then said that tidal flooding was identified in Kent’s Emergency Planning local risk register as the top risk in the light of the county’s 326 miles of coastline and 369 square miles of land located within the tidal flood plain.  This risk had been the theme of the previous year’s Exercise Surge, whose lessons and resultant changes to practice would be reported to the Committee in due course.


(9)       Mr Lewin referred to Minute (4) (12) from the previous meeting of the Committee and asked for the topic of the Thames Barrier and also the Medway Estuary and Swale Strategy to be born in mind during agenda planning. 


(10)     Mr Pugh said that the last flooding surge had been very close indeed to flooding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Local Flood Risk Management Strategy pdf icon PDF 96 KB

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(1)       Mr Tant introduced the report. He explained that KCC was designated as the Lead Local Flood Authority for Kent. This meant that it was the Lead for local flooding as opposed to being the Lead for all flooding locally.   One of KCC’s duties was to prepare the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy in order to set out how local flooding from surface water, groundwater and ordinary watercourses would be managed. 


(2)       Mr Tant said that the original Local Flood Risk management Strategy for Kent had been published in 2013.  This document was to have a relatively short time frame, acknowledging the fact that the role of Lead Local Flood Authority was new to KCC at the time.   The time was now right to develop a more medium term Strategy. 


(3)       Mr Tant continued by saying that the new Local Strategy in its draft form was differed from its predecessor in terms of its brevity.  The first local Strategy had set out the work that would be undertaken to build an understanding of the risk of local flooding in the county.   This information was now contained in the Flood Risk to Communities documents which covered all the Districts in Kent. All of these were now complete with the exception of Dartford and Gravesham.   As a consequence, there was no further need to include it in the Local Strategy.  Some of the policy issues had also been removed.


(4)       Mr Tant said that the draft Local Strategy document contained a short overview of the flood risks in Kent, information on progress and developments since the publication of the first Local Strategy and an assessment of the challenges which remained, leading to objectives and actions to enable continued delivery of flood risk management in the county together with a description of funding.   The Appendices set out the Works Programme and a risk assessment based on the preliminary flood risk assessment. 


(5)       Mr Tant concluded his introduction by referring to the colour map which he said was an example of the methodology of the Strategy which aimed to present its information in as brief and accessible a manner as possible.


(6)       Mr Gregory commented that the different definitions of flooding sources set out in the map, coupled with the responsible Authority illustrated the potential risk of responsibility for an event not being taken up at all.  He gave as an example the definitions of Coastal Flooding (Environment Agency) and Main Rivers (Environment Agency) and Watercourses (KCC and IDBs)   In Thanet, the flood risk posed by the River Stour arose from tidal influence not letting the water flow rather than the quantity of water flowing in the river itself. 


(7)       Mr Harwood acknowledged that there could be some confusion over lead responsibilities in relation to different kinds of flood risk, but asked the Committee to bear in mind that flood response activity was always multi-agency.   The immediate response would involve the various rescue services and other partners, whilst the matter of lead  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Environment Agency and Met Office Alerts and Warnings and KCC Flood response activity since the last meeting pdf icon PDF 240 KB

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(1)       Mr Harwood said that since publication of the report, the number of yellow Met Office severe weather alerts since the previous meeting had increased from 6 to 8 (7 for heavy rain and 1 for high winds).   In most cases, the heavy rain forecast had not materialised in Kent. 


(2)       Mr Harwood continued by saying that since the winter months, it had been exceptionally dry. This was reflected in the relatively small number of flood alerts issued by the Environment Agency.  There had been 32 between March and July in 2016 but only 5 for the corresponding period in 2017.   This had consisted of one coastal flood alert arising from a spring tide and four in areas which were known as “rapid response catchments” where surface water could be an issue (Pent Stream, Folkestone and Rivers Shuttle and Cray on the Dartford border with LB Bexley).


(3)       Mr Harwood then said that the lengthy dry period had led to the Kent Resilience Forum updating their Drought Plan which was currently out for consultation with stakeholders, including KCC. 


(4)       Mr Bowles commented that heavy rainfall was now becoming a far more localised event than had ever previously been the case.


(5)       Mr Gregory asked whether “Yellow Alerts” were being reviewed for their accuracy.   Mr Harwood replied by saying that weather forecasting was not an exact science.  A Yellow Alert would always be issues when heavy rainfall was forecast to fall in or near to Kent.  Yellow Alerts were also issued in response to highly localised events.  The North Downs often constituted a barrier for weather pattern with rain falling on one side whilst the other side remained dry.  Nevertheless, it was very important not to issue warnings on too many occasions for events that did not materialise.   There was a particular risk in respect of flood alerts that people would not react when they received a warning of a serious event.  This risk was being mitigated as far as was possible in the circumstances described by regular discussions with the met Office and Environment Agency.


(6)       Mr Payne said that Southern Water were saying that Kent was at a stage of imminent drought but that there would not be a drought unless another dry winter occurred.  He was concerned that the water companies had not put any customer restrictions in place.  If concern were to be voiced now by the water companies about an imminent drought, people would be better prepared in the event that a drought did occur the following year.  


(7)       Mr Tant informed the Committee that because of the groundwater conditions in Kent, it would require two consecutive dry winters before it experienced a drought.   It was therefore likely that any work on preparation for a drought would not commence until the middle of winter, when the winter rainfall effect on water resources would be understood.  


(8)       Mrs Brown said that long periods of dry weather tended to bring about a sense of public complacency in relation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Kent Resilience Forum Pan Kent Flood Group pdf icon PDF 139 KB

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(1)       Mr Harwood reported on current activity undertaken by the KRF Pan Kent Flood Group.    He referred to the debrief report given to the Committee on the responses to the very serious flooding events of 2013/14.  One of the key recommendations had been that partners needed to work more routinely together on flood planning.  The Pan Kent Flood Group had consequently been created in 2015. It consisted of professional responders drawn from the Environment Agency, the Fire Service, Local Authorities and others, meeting on a regular basis, usually quarterly but more often if urgent work needed to be completed.  The Group was chaired by Luke Thompson from the Environment Agency. Mr Harwood himself was the Vice-Chair.


(2)       Mr Harwood then said that much of the Pan Kent Flood Group’s work programme had arisen out of discussions at this Committee.   An example of this was the issue of community          road closures during flooding events where the Committee had discussed the fact that road closures were often ignored, leading to danger and damage from bow wave impact in places such as Barham, Collier Street and Eynsford.  The key theme of East Kent surge preparedness had also arisen in response to discussions by the Committee.


(3)       Mr Harwood replied to a question from Mr Gregory by saying that Minutes were not circulated publicly but that the Group was aware of the need to ensure that all of its business that was not exempt could be made available to the public through Freedom of Information requests. He suggested that the best way to ensure that the Committee was kept up-to-date on the Group’s progress was for him to report regularly to the Committee on the Group’s work and activity.  Although some of this activity was very technical, there was much that was of wider public interest.  The work undertaken on off-site reservoir inundation planning would be a particularly clear example of such matters.


(4)       RESOLVED that:-


(a)          the work programme for the Kent Resilience Forum Pan Kent Flood Group be noted; and


(b)       a report giving and update on the Pan Kent Flood Group’s work be submitted to each future meeting of the Committee.     


Future Visits

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The Committee considered the possibility of inspecting the Environment Agency’s emergency equipment at its Scots Float Office in Rye, with the possibility of holding a future Committee meeting there on the same day.