(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 replied to a question from Mr Angell by saying that the EA had a Regional Team which responded to consultations on all planning applications. The EA had a performance indicator which measured whether the outcome had been in line with its decision to support or object to the application in question. She confirmed that the EA did not have the authority to insist that permission should be refused.
(12) The Chairman referred to a speech by Sir James Bevan (Chief Executive of the EA) in which he had indicated that in the event that a Local Authority did permit a housing development in the flood plain, it should ensure that the properties were flood-resilient.
(13) Mrs Blanford said that Sir James Bevan’s speech referred to the need to avoid building in the flood plain but also indicated that a sensible flood-resilient measure was to have the residential part of the property on the first floor above the garage. This would, however, run the risk of leaving the residents stranded if they could not use their vehicles to leave the property whilst the land around was flooded. She added that Ashford BC had recently turned down a major application where the developer had wanted to build a large number of properties in the flood zone and green corridor with inadequate flood mitigation measures.
(14) Ms Harvey replied that the EA recognised that Local Planning Authorities had competing priorities. They needed to build more homes and the EA did not wish to be an agency which was against growth. At the same time, it wished to avoid supporting development in the flood plain wherever possible. She added that some people moved into a property in the full knowledge of its location in a flood plain but would then sell it on to people who were not aware of this. Awareness of the risk was often lost, especially as flooding events often did not occur with regularity.
(15) Mr Curd then set out some of the schemes that were in the programme but would not be delivered. These were the Flood Alleviation Schemes in the Great Stour Flood Plain (300 properties at risk) which were still being worked on and would be in the next programme and East Peckham (192 properties at risk) because the partnership funding required could not be raised.
(16) Mr Curd replied to a question from Mr Payne by saying that the EA was progressing the Property Resilience Scheme in East Peckham at a cost of £600k as an alternative to the flood alleviation scheme.
(17) Mr Curd said that the options appraisal for the Nailbourne groundwater flooding Scheme had just been completed and was now under evaluation.
(18) Mr Curd then showed the most important capital programme Schemes for 2021. These were: Rother Tidal Walls East and West; River Stour FAS; Tillingham and Scots Float Sluice Refurbishment; Romney Marsh Pumping Station Refurbishment; Medway Estuary and Swale schemes; Capital Maintenance to EA and LA defences; Lydd Sea Defences project; and Five Oak Green. All of these would require some element of partnership funding.
(19) The Shoreline Management Plans were currently in the process of being refreshed. This would take the form of a high-level review of projects that had already been undertaken.
(20) Mr Curd said that the UKCP climate change projections were being taken into account. The updated predictions would be incorporated into all future schemes. This could increase the funding gap as costs increased.
(21) Ms Harvey replied to a question from Mr Chittenden by saying that Sir James Bevan’s personal view was that house building should not take place in flood plains. The EA’s response when consulted on planning applications in these circumstances was to highlight the risks as clearly as possible.
(22) Mr Rodgers said that the required funding for the East Peckham scheme had not been forthcoming, although Tonbridge and Malling BC had offered a substantial sum as its contribution. The landowners and businesses had, however, been reluctant to make significant contributions of their own. He asked for details of the East Peckham Walls scheme that had appeared in the presentation slides.
(23) Mrs Brown said that Yalding PC had recently been faced with two housing applications on the riverbank which had included downstairs bedrooms. The Borough Council had not needed to consult them on these applications because they conformed to EA guidelines. She asked whether the guidelines could be tightened up.
(24) Mr Curd noted this comment and agreed to discuss it with the local EA Planning Team.
(25) Mrs Mackonochie referred to a previous presentation from the EA on Property Flood Resilience. She had asked whether any money was set aside for new build. Recent events had suggested that this policy was not the right one and could lead to local authorities having to adopt a different approach to property planning applications.
(26) Mr Curd replied that the government funding policy was not to fund protection measures for properties built after 2012 as it was the developer’s responsibility to ensure that their buildings were flood resilient. He did not expect this policy to change.
(27) Mr Lake thanked the Environment Agency for explaining the Leigh and Hildenborough scheme to the people of Leigh and Penshurst. He then said that he was concerned that the more that Leigh and Hildenborough were protected, the higher the water levels would be in Edenbridge, which had just experienced its third flooding event in a year. He stressed the need to dredge the rivers Medway and Eden and their tributaries.
(28) Mr Curd replied that if the Leigh flood storage area were to affect Edenbridge, the water would be coming over the A21 viaduct. This was represent an impossibly high high water level. He accepted that a major cause of flooding in Edenbridge was the result of issues. The responsibility for this would rest with the EA in part as well as the Highways Authority, landowners and the local IDB.
(29) Mr Tant said that when water reached a certain level in Edenbridge, there was nowhere for rainfall in the town to drain to. Mitigation measures would be neither cheap nor easy to implement. These was not the responsibility of the EA. This was a drainage issue, which was not the EA’s responsibility.
(30) Ms Harvey said that the responsibility for each tributary was clearly mapped out and that she could provide Mr Lake with the details.
(31) The Chairman said that all agencies needed to develop the way in which they worked together in order to overcome the historical complexity of the issues of responsibility.
(32) RESOLVED that Ms Harvey and Mr Curd be thanked for their presentation and that its content be noted.