Agenda and minutes

Kent Flood Risk Management Committee - Wednesday, 9th March, 2022 2.00 pm

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

Contact: Andrew Tait  03000 416749


No. Item


Minutes of the meeting on 24 November 2021 pdf icon PDF 326 KB

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RESOLVED that subject to the correct spelling of the speaker’s name in  paragraph (16) of Minute 14,  the Minutes of the meeting held on 24 November 2021 re correctly recorded and that they be signed by the Chairman.


Introduction to the work of the Committee - Presentation by Max Tant - KCC Flood and Water Manager

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(1)       Mr Tant gave a presentation. The accompanying slides can be found in the meeting page on the KCC website.


(2)      Mr Tant introduced himself as the KCC Flood and Water Manager.  He managed the Flood and Water Management Team within the Environment and Waste Directorate.  The Team provided the duties in its capacity as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for Kent.   The LLFAs had been created by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 which had followed the Pitt Review of the 2007 Floods.  These had occurred during the Summer months and had been very extensive throughout the UK.


(3)       Mr Tant continued by saying that the Flood and Water Management Team also provided strategic flood risk management advice on water resources, promoted water efficiency and advised on water quality. 


(4)       KCC’s  role as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) gave it a strategic overview role for local flooding which arose from surface water, ordinary watercourses and groundwater.  Mr Tant explained that a watercourse was simply an area through which water flowed towards a natural endpoint such as the sea - ditches and ponds were not watercourses, and KCC had no powers over them.  Some watercourses were designated as main rivers and were the responsibility of the Environment Agency.  All other watercourses were described as “ordinary watercourses.” 


(5)       Mr Tant turned to the LLFA’s powers and duties.  It had to prepare a local flood risk management strategy, the third version of which was due to come into force in the next two years. The LLFA also had to undertake “section 19 investigations” into floods in the county.  This could potentially be for any flood, although the LLFA would not normally duplicate the work of another agency, such as the EA, in this regard.  The LLFA maintained a register of structures and features that had a significant impact on flooding.  Since 2015, the LLFA had become a statutory consultee for major planning applications (involving 10 or more homes or 1000m2 of office space).  It also had powers to regulate normal flows in land drainage for ordinary watercourses that were not in the jurisdiction of one of the five IDBs in the county. The LLFA also worked collaboratively with other risk management authorities in Kent.


(6)       Mr Tant defined surface water flooding as that which arose directly from rainfall.  Flooding could occur if rainfall fell heavily on the land, overwhelming the capacity of local drainage to cope with it.  Once this surface water entered any type of drainage system (such as a river or sewer), it ceased to be legally classed as such.   Surface water flooding typically occurred following intense rainfall in the summer. The last four years had seen some 100 flooding events each summer.   The winter months could also see significant flooding events in ordinary watercourses, usually as a result of the ground already being saturated when the rainfall occurred.


(7)       Mr Tant said that he was often asked which areas were susceptible to flooding.   The answer  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.


Southern Water Pathfinder Scheme - Presentation

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(1)       Mr Nick Mills from Southern Water gave a presentation. The slides can be viewed on the KCC website page for this meeting.


(2)       Mr Mills began his presentation by saying that the Environment Act, which had the full support of Southern Water and the Water Industry as a whole required demonstrable improvements in the sewerage systems together with progressive reductions in the harm caused by untreated sewage discharges.  Customers wanted to see a reduction in the use of Storm Overflows and the rise in global temperatures increased the urgency to address this issue.  Currently, far too much surface water was getting into the combined sewers and the intensity (rather than the amount) of summer rainfall had become far worse since the 1970s.


(3)       Mr Mills referred to the statement by the CEO of Southern Water on its website, which made clear that the time for action was “now”.  The target set by the company was to reduce storm overflows by 80% by 2030.  This could only be achieved by looking at the entire water system holistically rather than by focussing purely on “end of pipe” solutions. This would entail establishing stronger partnerships, the prioritisation of sustainable catchment and nature-based solutions.


(4)       The aim of the Storm Overflow Task Force, which Mr Mills headed was to demonstrate the principles in 5 pathfinder catchments (3 of which were in Swalecliffe, Margate and Deal) over the next 2 years in order to build a regional plan for implementation between now and 2030 which would take full account of scale, cost, difficulty of delivery and public engagement.  It was also vital to maintain high standards of transparency whilst improving the accuracy of the Beachbuoy service and the user experience.


(5)       Mr Mills moved on to consider the nature of storm overflows. He said that they could be 95% rainwater.   Combined sewer systems were a legacy from the Victorian era when they had been built to resolve health issues such as cholera. They were often overwhelmed during heavy rainfall.   Surface water levels needed to be reduced at source in order to mitigate storm overflows and flooding risk.  The main sources of surface water were roof and road run off, which needed to be removed or attenuated. 


(6)       Mr Mills then said that there were three main types of intervention to reduce the risk of flooding and storm overflow use.  The first of these was “Upstream source control” (meaning the removal and slowing of the rainwater flow).  Examples of this were: rainwater harvesting, permeable paving, green roofs, soakaways (including tree pits), rain gardens (swales) and planters.


(7)       The second type of intervention was entitled “System optimisation” (making better use of the existing infrastructure).  This involved optimisation (tweaking of connected systems and interfaces), different mechanical and electrical equipment (e.g., pumps), improvements in pumping station and storm tank use and control, and smart network control with increased digitalisation.  Mr Mills said that the cost of sensors had decreased which afforded an opportunity to modernise the system.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Storms Eunice and Franklin - 18th to 21st February 2022 pdf icon PDF 468 KB

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Mr Harwood introduced the report by saying that summer storms were a growing problem resulting from climate change.  The warmer atmosphere led to greater amounts of vapour being released into the atmosphere, building up energy which was then returned to the ground by a storm.


(2)       Mr Harwood then said that both Storms Eunice and Franklin had been very significant events. Storm Eunice had been the first-ever Red Severe Weather Warning issued by the Met Office for Southeast England.  The early warning received of its approach had been beneficial for both Kent and the UK as a whole.


(3)       Mr Harwood continued by saying that the public response to the storms had evidenced a change in behaviour with very few people taking unnecessary risks. This had been supplemented by higher-risk organisations and services responding positively to advice that they too should not put themselves in danger from wind-blown debris resulting from damage to trees.  Some had been shut down during the storm.  For example, the QEII Bridge at the Dartford Crossing had been closed from 5.00 am on Friday, 18 February.   A similar closure had taken place at the Sheppey Bridge and on other parts of the transport network.


(4)       Mr Harwood said that some of the most significant damage had been to power infrastructure.  Some 71,000 private and commercial premises had been without power. The Utilities had often been unable to intervene because of the danger posed during the main part of the day.  Intervention work had resumed very quickly during the evening as the winds began to dissipate.  The telecommunications network had also been badly affected, particularly in the High Weald and Cranbrook. This had resulted in a significant loss of contact with public service staff as well as a threat to business continuity.


(5)       Mr Harwood then praised the work of the Utilities.  The UK Power Networks had worked very closely with KCC and other partners to identify vulnerable customers and restore power to the most sensitive locations.  Likewise, BT had been able to prioritise the restoration of links to respite care centres and other similar facilities.


(6)       Mr Harwood said that the loss of power to pumping stations in parts of Kent.  This was a matter of concern both at the time and for the future.  Fortunately, the two storms had not been wet storms. If they had been, there would very probably have been issues of surface water flooding and of the impact upon wastewater.


(7)        The KCC debrief following the storm had taken place on 1 March. This had identified a number of lessons to be learned which would be considered at a multi-agency debrief to be held on 10 March.


(8)       Mr Harwood concluded his introduction by saying that Storm Franklin on 21 February had been less intense than Storm Eunice, even though wind speeds of up to 62 mph had been recorded at Manston.   Its effect had been to exacerbate the impact of the previous storm which had not at that stage  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Environment Agency and Met Office Alerts and Warnings and KCC severe weather response activity pdf icon PDF 266 KB

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(1)       Mr Harwood referred to paragraph 2.1 of the report which explained that Kent had experienced an unusually dry November, with only 23% of long-term monthly average rainfall being recorded. December had seen a near average rainfall total, whilst January had also been fairly dry.


(2)       Mr Harwood then said that the winter weather conditions could well have a bearing on the spring months as these had also been dry in recent years.  If this occurred in 2022, there would be a danger of water levels in aquifers and watercourses not being replenished.  Reservoir levels in Kent were, however, stable.  Bewl was currently at 79% capacity, which was normal for the time of year. Bough Beech had reached full capacity during the month of January.


(3)       Mr Harwood turned to flooding issues since the last meeting.  The two main events had been coastal. There had been overtopping of defences in parts of the county, including Denge on 18 February as a result of Storm Eunice.  Storm Franklin on 21 February had been accompanied by tidal flooding which had affected the North Kent coast, from Gravesend through to the Isle of Sheppey. 


(4)       Mr Harwood said that the Met Office three-month outlook summary for February to April indicated that rainfall was likely to be average during this period. High tides were forecast for late March which meant that the risk of flooding would be greatest at this time if stormy weather and/or heavy rainfall were also to occur during that period.


(5)       Mr Rayner said that the tidal predictions were lower than in 2021.  These predictions were, however, a view of the most likely tide levels based on evidence that was very difficult to analyse. It would be a mistake to treat these predictions as fact.  There was also the factor of potential low pressure periods which could impact negatively on the entire prognosis.


(6)       RESOLVED that the warnings received since the last meeting of the Committee be noted.  



Update on Little Venice Country Park and Marina pdf icon PDF 190 KB

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(1)          Mr Harwood introduced the report by explaining that Little Venice was a low-lying site containing mobile residential units and was located close to the confluence of the Rivers Beult and Medway.   It was consequently at significant at risk of flooding. The most serious recent flooding event had occurred in 2013/14 when the response had included rescue by boat at night. 

(2)       Mr Harwood continued by saying that the 2013/14 experience at Little Venice had led to work being undertaken with the site operators and other partners (Yalding PC, the EA, Kent Fire and Rescue and Maidstone BC) to enhance the resilience of the site and its community. On site Emergency Plans had been significantly upgraded, as had the engineering methods for the mobile homes.  The most significant improvements had related to the precision of warning and informing measures in response to EA Flood Alerts.


(3)        Mr Harwood then said that the biggest challenge faced was the historic planning permission which gave little opportunity to the Local Planning Authority to arrange for big changes to the site.  The approach adopted had therefore been based on contingency planning. 


(4)       Mr Harwood said that there had been a number of stakeholder meetings over the past year.  These included a meeting held on Monday, 6 December 2021. The notes of this meeting were contained in Appendix 2 to the report. 


(5)       Mr Rayner asked how many Flood Wardens had specific responsibility within the Little Venice community. He added that this was important as Little Venice was historically somewhat isolated from the rest of the Parish of Yalding. 


(6)       Mr Rayner then said that advertisements could still be found in places such as SE London and NW Kent encouraging people to sell their homes and use the money from the sale to purchase a home in Little Venice without being fully aware of the problems which might arise. 


(7)       Mr Rayner then referred to paragraph 2.9 of Appendix 1 which was a record of the virtual site meeting on 20 September 2020.  This paragraph highlighted the problems faced in evacuating people from the site during the flooding event in March 2020.  He said that KCC as the social services authority and Maidstone BC as the housing authority ought to be doing more to restrict the nature of the people who were moving into the site. It was wrong that 16 vulnerable people were living on a site that was one of the most prone to flooding in Kent.   The incident described showed the great difficulty with which these people had been evacuated and drew attention to the lack of responsibility of any of the partner agencies to return them to Little Venice after the emergency was over.    


(8)       Mr Harwood replied that the key point was that Little Venice was a private development and that the residents were private householders.  In these circumstances, the most positive approach was to work in partnership with all concerned to achieve the best possible outcome. 


(9)       Mr Rayner  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.