Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
Contact: Andrew Tait 03000 416749
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 11 November 2019 are correctly recorded and that they be signed by the Chairman.
(1) Ms Sally Harvey (Area Director – Environment Agency, Kent and South London) briefly introduced herself. She said that the recent flooding events and the frequent occurrences of extreme weather that were being experienced both demonstrated the need for all agencies to work closely together.
(2) Simon Curd (EA Area Flood and Coastal Risk Management Support Officer) gave the detailed presentation. The accompanying slides are contained within the electronic papers on the KCC website.
(3) Mr Curd said that the Environment Agency was committed to protecting an additional 300,000 homes nationally from flooding by the end of its current six-year programme in March 2021. The EA had already achieved half of this figure.
(4) There were currently 60,000 properties (50k residential and 10k commercial) at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in Kent. These were mainly located along the North Kent Coast, Thanet, South East Kent and the River Medway.
(5) Mr Curd then said that Kent and South London had secured an allocation of £114m for its 2019/21 Capital Programme out of an overall total of £846m. It was forecast that over 21,000 properties in the Region would see reduced flood risk over the next two years. These were mainly those where the works were expected to be more complicated than those that had already been completed.
(6) Mr Curd showed a slide which demonstrated the Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FD GIA) for the years 2015/16 to 20/21 divided into EA and Local Authority Projects. He explained that “OMs” were Outcome Measures. OM2s represented homes that were better protected from flooding and OM3s were homes that were better protected from coastal erosion.
(7) Ms Harvey explained that there were very clear rules determining how the FD GIA money was spent. These rules were usually very helpful but, in some cases, made it difficult to deliver schemes. She added that the EA was optimistic that it would shortly receive a revised longer-term settlement, including revisions to the funding rules that would assist in providing greater clarity and, in turn, ensuring that allocations could always be spent as needed.
(8) Mr Curd then set out the Local Authority Capital Programme for 2020/21. The overall total of £5.78m (including Medway) was apportioned between the Chatham Waterfront, Hythe to Folkestone Beach Management and Beach Recharge.
(9) Mr Curd turned to the method of allocating funding for capital schemes. This was based on the partnership funding model. The previous model had been based on cost benefit analysis which had prevented any funding for projects that failed to achieve the required score. The new model enabled them to go ahead if cost savings or other funding could be found to meet the remainder.
(10) Mr Curd said that the EA had developed a robust pipeline of future projects for what was expected to be the next 6-year capital programme starting in 2021. These were mainly projects that would be technically difficult or which would need securement of partnership funding.
(11) Ms Harvey ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
(1) Both of the presentations for this item can be found in the electronic agenda papers for this meeting on the KCC website.
(2) Mr Tom Cook (EA Biodiversity Specialist) gave the first presentation. He said that Defra had allocated £15m in 2016 to the EA for Natural Flood Management (NFM) across the UK. £300k of this had been allocated to Medway NFM enabling the testing of nature-based techniques to contribute to the evidence base, whilst reducing the flood risk to properties, drawing in other funding, engaging with communities and delivering multiple benefits.
(3) Medway NFM was part of the Medway Flood Partnership. It worked together with the South East Rivers Trust which was leading and co-ordinating delivery of the project which was currently match-funded by FRAMES (an EA interreg funded project) together with contributions from Maidstone BC and other partners (including KCC). The EA also reported on the property benefits, biodiversity and landscape character, building up an evidence data bank for future NFM work.
(4) Mr Cook went on to say that the Medway Flood Partnership had begun its work by identifying the areas in the Medway where NFM would be most achievable. The best place to start was in the upper catchment so that water could be stored before reaching the vulnerable villages and hamlets lower down. The EA’s national mapping tool had been used to gather evidence, including mapping, elevations, soil types of all the water bodies. This information was then mapped in conjunction with those properties which were known to be at risk. This had yielded 10 water bodies located in the catchment area. The South East Rivers Trust had then spent a great deal of time in discussion with local landowners as well as Natural England and other partners in order to ascertain where the monies could best be put to use during the project’s two-year life.
(5) The first project was at Bedgebury Forest, in partnership with the Forestry Commission. This site had been planted with conifers over a period of a hundred years. It had good drainage facilities which had enabled the landowners to maximise their profits. The project involved slowing the waterflow by installing leaky wood dams to distrubute overflow on the forest land. It would change the nature of the forest by enabling it to store more water. It was an important demonstration site as it showed Forestry Commission staff what NFM could achieve. At the same time, environmental surveys were being undertaken to assess the nature and level of change to the natural habitat.
(6) The second demonstration site was at Sissinghurst Castle. The main partners were the National Trust who had a large estate beyond the gardens and had also decided to adopt NFM measures on their own land, locally and nationally.
(7) Mr Cook explained that the EA’s site was at the Hammer Stream, which was an IDB watercourse where the riverbed lay some 3 metres below the flood plain, resulting in the water flowing very rapidly downstream. ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
(1) Mr Harwood explained that the report only related to the heavy flooding event of Thursday, 19 December 2019, which had continued into the weekend. Further debriefs had taken place following Storms Ciara and Dennis as well as the more recent event of 5 and 6 March 2020. These would be reported in due course.
(2) Mr Harwood continued that it was vital to capture learning from the responses and to assimilate that learning as expeditiously as possible as this was a time of unprecedented challenge in terms of climate change and rate of urbanisation in Kent as well as significant changes in land use on agricultural land and in the suburbs. This change required speedy adaptation.
(3) Mr Harwood turned to the report itself, saying that the KCC internal debrief had involved officers from Highways Drainage, Emergency Planning and Adult Social Care and Health amongst others.
(4) Mr Harwood said that the debrief had concluded that amongst the things that had gone well was that close links had been established very quickly (and maintained thereafter) between the KCC Emergency Centre and the Environment Agency Incident Room. These links had notably enhanced the response. There had not been a large and cumbersome Command and Control system. The model followed had, instead, been one of single agency command supplemented by regular inter-agency discussion. The telephone lines had been left permanently open, enabling immediate response to any issue that arose, unencumbered by any layer of bureaucracy.
(5) There had also been effective co-ordination between KCC and the Kent Fire and Rescue Service (including the Tactical Adviser Water and Flooding) which had enhanced the effectiveness of the response. This had been successful across the whole county where surface water was an issue and not just in the flooding hotspots. The benefit had been that it had enabled a proactive response which, in many cases, had headed-off flooding to properties before it happened.
(6) Mr Harwood drew attention to the finding that enhanced flood storage at the recently restored semi-natural land on the River Len floodplain upstream of Maidstone town centre had significantly ameliorated downstream impacts from increased flows. This underlined the message given earlier in the meeting on the value of NFM. Water from the River Len had been released at the optimum times in order to ensure that Maidstone itself was not impacted by flooding from the Len and Medway.
(7) Mr Harwood replied to a question from Mrs Brown by saying that the draft debrief reports on Storms Ciara and Dennis were close to being ready. As soon as they were, they would be sent to Members of the Committee. Any additional comments would be assimilated into the final version of the debrief reports.
(8) Mr Bowles said that he concurred with the recommendations in the debrief report but warned that drafting them did not necessarily mean that they would be put into place. He noted that one of them was that “Specific locations where ditches and other flood ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
(1) Mr Harwood introduced the report by highlighting the very high number of severe weather alerts and warning since 11 November 2019. He provided updated figures which took account of the events that had taken place since publication of the agenda papers. The figure for Flood Alerts in paragraph 2.4 of the report had risen from 131 to 147 whilst that for Flood Warnings had risen from 30 to 44, bringing the cumulative total to 193.
(2) Mr Harwood then said that the figures given only related to the fluvial and coastal flood plains. A lot of the response activity had also been related to surface water and highway flooding.
(3) Mr Harwood drew attention to the corresponding figure of 25 Flood Alerts and Warnings for the same period in 2018/19, demonstrating the unpredictability and extreme variations in weather patterns from year to year.
(4) Mr Harwood moved on to update the figures in Appendix 2 of the report in respect of Met Office Severe Weather Warnings. The Warnings for rain had risen from 21 to 22 and for wind from 17 to 18. This gave an overall total of 49, contrasting with the figure of 13 during the same period in 2018/19.
(5) Mr Harwood said that KCC had contacted the Government in order to express an interest in claiming under the Bellwin Scheme because it had spent more than 0.2% of its entire budget on response activity over the Winter.
(6) Mr Harwood concluded his remarks by saying that an important factor had been the cumulative impact of the prolonged intermittent severe weather events over the Winter. Relatively small downpours were now resulting in major flooding events because catchments were full and the ground saturated. This had been evidenced on 5 and 6 March 2020 by the severe flooding on the A26 between Mereworth and Hadlow, the A20 at Bethesden and on the A228, all of which had resulted in road closures for a long period. There had also been a significant impact on the rail infrastructure, resulting in disruption, including the collapse of the Martello Tunnel between Folkestone and Dover.
(7) RESOLVED that the very high number of Alerts and Warnings since the last meeting be noted.
Recent Flooding Events in Yalding and Collier Street
(1) The Chairman agreed to take this oral report as an Urgent Item as the most recent flooding had taken place after the agenda papers had been published.
(2) Mrs Brown addressed the meeting in her role as Chairman of Yalding PC. She described the Parish Council’s activities during the three flooding events over the Winter. The recent event had been better than the previous two, although there had been a greater amount of surface water, leading to more road closures than had been the case during Storms Ciara and Dennis.
(3) Yalding PC was part of a pilot scheme for road closures, enabling them to close roads themselves and to notify KCC after it had done so. Simon Jones (KCC Director of Highways, Transportation and Waste) had provided the Parish Council with plastic water-filled barriers in order to implement the road closures.
(4) Mrs Brown said that tremendous support had been provided by South East 4x4, who had been permanently present throughout each of the three events. They also had a direct line to Kent Police, which had helped ensure that the road closures were respected.
(5) Mrs Brown continued that the Confluence Communications Group, consisting of KCC Emergency Planning, Kent Fire and Rescue, the Environment Agency, Yalding and Collier Street Parish Councils, Maidstone BC and KCC Adult Social Care and Health had held two conference calls each day so that all the participating agencies were fully briefed on the entire response to the event and were also able to provide whatever was needed when requested. This had worked brilliantly, and could, hopefully be rolled out to other parts of the County.
(6) The recently installed property flood resilience (PFR) measures in Yalding and Collier Street had only been tested at Acott Fields. The Environment Agency had previously organised exhibition events in both Yalding and Collier Street to demonstrate to the residents how to put them up properly. It would not have been possible for the Flood Wardens to do so as there were not enough of them. Most houses did have PFR, but there were still 46 properties with no protection at all.
(7) Mrs Brown summed up her report by saying that everybody in the community needed to learn to work together. People should not expect the Borough Council to do everything for them. She thanked all the agencies who had supported Yalding so well.
(8) RESOLVED that Mrs Brown be thanked for her report and that its content be noted.