Agenda and minutes

Kent Flood Risk Management Committee - Monday, 23rd November, 2020 2.00 pm

Venue: Online

Contact: Andrew Tait  03000 416749


No. Item


Minutes of the meeting on 9 March 2020 pdf icon PDF 255 KB

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RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 9 March 2020 are correctly recorded and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Mitigating Surface Water Flood Risk on the Highway pdf icon PDF 1 MB

(This report was presented to Cabinet on 22 October 2020 and is for Information only)

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(1)       Mr Bourner introduced the report which had previously been considered by Cabinet on 12 October 2020. He said that Kent was experiencing intense rainfall events on an increasingly frequent basis, with recent rainstorms generating a volume and intensity of rain well beyond that of the design capability of highway drainage systems. Summer ‘flash flooding was also becoming an increasingly significant risk to the highway authority.  For example, over 40 mm of rain had fallen in the Sittingbourne area on 15 August 2020 in the space of just 45 minutes.  A perspective on the extraordinary nature of the event could be gained when noting that the average amount of rainfall in this region was just 56.3 mm for the entire month of August.


(2)       Mr Bourner then said that the burden on Kent’s highway drainage systems could be exacerbated by many other factors. These included the age and condition of highway drainage systems (some systems were more than 100 years old and be operating beyond their original design life);  operational issues arising from budget limitations for ongoing routine maintenance; capacity issues of drainage systems which were not under the control of the Highway Authority, including public sewers or private ditches and watercourses which they connected into; structural damage to drainage systems by third parties or site environs that could remain  unnoticed until significant rainfall occurred;  poor maintenance of drainage features in land adjacent to the highway; “Urban Creep” effects such as additional run-off onto highways from the paving of front gardens; and increases in the peak intensity of rainfall brought about by climate change.


(3)       Mr Bourner said that KCC’s highway drainage systems were designed to drain water from the highway surface only and were not generally intended to be flood defences. They, nevertheless, still played a key role in managing local flood risk. They were usually designed to cope with a 1 in 5 - year event, such as a storm producing approximately 20 mm of rainfall in a one-hour period. In recent years, however, many occurrences had exceeded that design standard.


(4)       When such events occurred, run-off often used the highway as a conduit to escape to lower ground, either as “overland flows”  which following the topography or as “exceedance flows” where a drainage system was unable to cope.  This could lead to highway flooding or property damage in a location that was remote from the original source of the flood water.


(5)       Mr Bourner added that this often gave the impression that the run-off had originated solely from the highway and should therefore have been dealt with by the drainage system in that location.  As a result, the Highway Authority was often blamed for flooding that may have been outside of its reasonable control.


(6)       Mr Bourner then addressed KCC’s role as the Lead Local Flood Authority for Kent. A range of Surface Water Management Plans (SWMPs) had been produced with the aim of increasing the understanding of local flood risks and providing a high-level action plan  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Environment Agency and Met Office Alerts and Warnings and KCC severe weather response activity since the last meeting pdf icon PDF 230 KB

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(1)          Mr Harwood informed the Committee that, since publication of the agenda papers, the number of Flood Alerts in paragraph 2.6 of the report had risen to 27 (16 fluvial and 11 coastal).  The figure for Met Office Warnings in paragraph 2.7 had risen to 49.  The Thames Flood Barrier (paragraph 2.8) had been raised for operational reasons on one more occasion, giving a total of three.  


(2)       Mr Harwood said that the long-term weather forecast suggested that Kent was likely to experience a quieter weather period until after Christmas.  The risk of stormy weather was projected to rise significantly during the Winter period from Christmas onwards.  Some elevated spring tides were also expected, particularly through January and February.  The greatest concerns would arise if stormy weather were to occur during these high tides.


(3)       Mr Harwood ended his introduction by saying that In terms of Emergency Planning’s ability to respond to severe weather in the New Year, the main concern was that such events could coincide with other challenges such as those arising from the pandemic (where the figures were continuing to rise in Kent) as well as the end of the transition period when the UK departed from the EU institutions.  


(4)       The Chairman said that he had been surprised that the EA had not sent out a Warning in response to the 4m waves which had occurred on the Romney Marsh coastline during the previous week.  He asked whether this represented a change of approach by the EA to a more focussed Warning system.


(5)       Mr Alawo said that the EA’s modelling in South Kent had improved over the past year, leading to a corresponding improvement in the Warning system.  This enabled the EA to avoid warning the public unnecessarily. 


(6)       Mr Bowles said that he had farmed extensively on Seasalter Marshes, he had been receiving Alerts on virtually every occasion that the tide came in.  He had eventually decided not to receive these Alerts as if he had reacted to each one, he would have needed to move his livestock on almost a daily basis. 


(7)       Mr Chittenden referred to paragraph 2.5 of the report which set out that the Bewl reservoir had finished the month of October at 59% of capacity, while Bough Beech had reached 54% of capacity.  He asked whether these reservoirs ever reached maximum capacity. 


(8)       Mr Harwood replied that the figures given were normal for the time of year.  The reservoirs usually re-charged during the Winter months. 


(9)       Mr Alawo said that Summer 2020 had seen periods of drought, mitigated by above-average rainfall in August.  This had led to reservoir capacity reaching average levels in October.  The EA would continue to monitor both rainfall and groundwater levels.   The increased rainfall in the new year was likely to have an effect.  


(10)     RESOLVED that the report be noted.


Virtual Site Visit to Little Venice pdf icon PDF 207 KB

Additional documents:


(1)       The Chairman introduced this item by referring to the March meeting of the Committee where concerns had been raised about the risks associated with flooding at Little Venice in Yalding.  Following this meeting, he had arranged a Virtual Site Visit. This visit had been attended by representatives from KCC, Maidstone BC, Yalding PC, Kent Fire and Rescue and the Environment Agency.  The report on this visit was contained in the agenda papers.


(2)       The Chairman replied to a question from Mr Rayner by explaining the purpose of the meeting had been to hold a focussed discussion on the site in question with representatives from the various agencies responsible for its Health and Safety in the event of a flooding event and to report back to the Committee on the outcome.  For this reason, he had not sent out a general invitation to all Members of the Committee. 


(3)       The Chairman agreed that the legal advice given to KCC would be shared with all KCC Members of the Committee. 


(4)       Mr Mortimer informed the Committee that he had spoken to James Bailey (Maidstone BC Planning Manager) prior to the meeting.  Mr Bailey had informed him that the legal advice on the Lawful Development Certificate (paragraph 15 of the report) was still awaited.   He asked the Committee to be aware of the need for sensitivity when discussing this matter as experience at another site in Maidstone, where a similar situation had arisen, had distressed many of its residents. 


(5)       Mr Chittenden said that he had been the local Borough Councillor some 10 years before when a major flooding event had occurred in Yalding, with its impact extending downstream as far as Tovil. Following discussions between Maidstone BC, the EA and KCC, £17m had initially been earmarked for improvements. The feasibility study had concluded that no major improvements could be undertaken, leading to the allocation being reduced to £4m for improvements to individual properties rather than to the area as a whole.  He urged KCC and the Environment Agency review this matter once the pandemic was over and the financial situation became clearer as the risk of flooding would not reduce until a holistic solution was funded and implemented. 


(6)       Mr Rayner referred to paragraphs 2.9, 2.11 and 2.12 of the report. He said that it was clear that people were being moved into Little Venice without being informed of the potential consequences.  This meant that elderly and vulnerable people were effectively moving into an unsustainable location.  It was the role of elected Members to continue to shine a light on the problem. 


(7)       The Committee agreed to a proposal, seconded by Mr Bowles that the update report would be presented by 26 July 2021 rather than within the next calendar year. 


(8)       In response to a question from Mrs Hurst, Mrs Brown explained that the residents of Little Venice did not purchase the land (although they could buy the caravan) but payed rent for living in temporary accommodation on the site.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.