(1) Mr Harwood began his introduction by saying that the figures in paragraph 2.5 of the report had changed since the papers had been published. The figure for Flood Alerts should now read 44 instead of 43. In paragraph 2.6, the figure for Met Office weather warnings was now 25 instead of 24 as a result of a new yellow warning for winds.
(2) Mr Harwood then said that the rainfall figures set out in paragraph 2.1 demonstrated that the summer had been extremely wet in the months of June, July and early August 2021. It was particularly notable that the long-term monthly average rainfall in June had been 192% of the long-term monthly average for that month. The effect of this very high level of rainfall had been seen on 12 July 2021 when the London Fire Brigade had declared a major incident for surface water flooding in the South East, including Kent. Homes had been flooded in Bethersden, Yalding and Horsmonden as well as in Urban Maidstone, where combined water drainage systems had discharged wastewater leading to a pollution incident in the River Len.
(3) Mr Harwood continued by saying that the most significant surface water flooding impacts of the summer had been experienced in residential areas on the scarp of the Greensand Ridge at Ulcombe. The investigation into its causes was ongoing.
(4) Mr Harwood said that August had been a dry period, after which there had been rainstorms in September and October. KCC had needed to intervene at the Stilebridge Caravan Site near Marden. Kent Highways in response, had worked with Kent Fire and other partner agencies very effectively.
(5) Mr Harwood then said that KCC’s updated Emergency Plan was currently being consulted upon and would be validated through a table-top flood response training exercise (Exercise Basilea) on 6 December. This would simulate, in a Kent context, the weather conditions that had unleashed the destructive flooding in Germany and other parts of continental Europe during July. It would take the form of a Met Office warning involving surface water flooding leading to fluvial flooding on the Medway.
(6) Mr Harwood concluded his introduction by saying that an exercise had been undertaken on 28 October which modelled an event impacting on the Flood Storage area at Hothfield near Ashford. This exercise had resulted in many learning points being identified. These included evacuation and shelter, and warning and informing. Another exercise would be held on 10 December in Northwest Kent involving a breach of the tidal wall along the River Thames.
(7) In response to a question from Mr Mackonochie, Mr Harwood explained that the first part of Exercise Basilea on 6 December was to involve a significant impact particularly affecting East Sussex and West Kent which would lead to surface water flooding wherever there were drainage issues. The second part of the exercise would mainly focus on the impact on the Leigh Barrier and the Medway catchment area and its communities. As it was predominantly a responder exercise, the main participant would be statutory agencies (Fire and Rescue, the EA, KCC and the affected Districts). It was possible that a similar exercise, involving PCs and local groups might arise from this. The debrief document would be made readily available.
(8) The Chairman agreed that all KCC Members of the Committee would receive hard copies of the agenda papers in future and that if any Members from outside KCC wished to have one, they should contact the clerk: email@example.com
with their details.
(9) In response to a question from Mrs Brown, Mr Harwood said that the Met Office’s three-month outlook summary indicated a 10% chance that November to January would be cooler than average; 45% that it would be nearer average; and a 45% chance that it would be milder than average. In terms of rainfall, there was a 10% chance that it would be drier than average; 60% that it would be near average and a 30% chance that it would be wetter than average. It also appeared that a stormier period was to be expected. High tides were due between 3 and 7 December, suggesting that coastal areas would be most vulnerable at that time.
(10) RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted.