This report provides an update on activities of Devon County Council’s (DCC) Flood & Coastal Risk Management Team as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for their area, including the major capital flood improvement projects that have been delivered or being progressed.
2020 has been a challenging year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however the team continues to be busy with very little/no drop off in word load, working hard despite the challenges of homeworking.
2.0 Statutory Responsibilities and Other Initiatives
2.1 Surface Water Consultations
As the Lead Local Flood Authority, DCC are a statutory consultee to the Local Planning Authority on the Surface Water Management proposals for new ‘major’ development applications. This function is taken very seriously to ensure flood risk is not worsened by new development and also to ensure those new properties are not placed at risk. Over 450 applications have been reviewed in the past 12 months, through their various planning stages and a consultation response provided to the LPA at each stage to either confirm the suitability of the proposals or to request further information and clarification.
2.2 Land Drainage Consents
All works within the channel of Ordinary Watercourses require a Land Drainage Consent for DCC as the LLFA. Over the past 12 months the team has reviewed and processed 106 applications, up 10% on this time last year.
Landowners with a watercourse running through or adjacent to their property have riparian responsibilities to maintain their section of the watercourse up to the centre of the channel from their side of the watercourse or all if running through their parcel of land. At times it is necessary for DCC to remind landowners of their responsibilities and request they clear any blockage, obstruction or illegal structure from the channel. Most of the time this is dealt with through informal requests, however there are occasions when a legal notice is required to be served on the landowner instructing them to carry out works after they have failed to act on the informal request. In the past 12 months there has had to be 3 formal notices served to ensure a freeflow of water is maintained.
2.4 Local Flood Risk Management Strategy
The current Local Strategy was published in May 2016 with a proposed 6-year review period. During the latter part of 2019 and into 2020 we have revised and rewritten our FRM Strategy and put it out to public consultation. It is important that all interested parties were given the opportunity to help shape the Strategy for the coming years. The consultation responses have been reviewed and the document revised where appropriate. The final Local Strategy is now being presented to DCC Cabinet in February for formal sign-off. Following this it will be published on the DCC Flood Risk Management webpage.
2.5 Natural Flood Management
Devon County Council has produced a Best Practice Guidance for Natural Flood Management (NFM) / Working with Natural Processes (WWNP). The document is to identify the various types of NFM measures that can be used for various locations and the benefits that can be achieved. A successful launch event for the document was held in December 2020 and the document has now been shared with our strategic partners, as well as being released on our website to ensure that it is widely distributed.
A strategic NFM working group with our partners is to be set up in the coming year to ensure that synergies are maximised, and efficiencies are realised.
2.6 Flood Incidents
On 17th August 2020 we experienced our worst flood event in a single location since becoming the LLFA when residents of Barnstaple suffered flooding to 118 residential and 46 commercial properties. A Section 19 report has been produced and as a result the list of highest priority communities in the Local Strategy has been amended to include Barnstaple. A study is already underway to investigate the risk and consider what surface water improvements could be developed. Flooding was also experienced a few days earlier on 13th August in Feniton where 9 residential and 1 commercial properties were internally flooded, instigating another S.19 report to be produced.
We have also experienced some intense rainfall events between October and December 2020 that has unfortunately resulted in flooding across various parts of Devon. On October 4th 2020 4 properties suffered internal flooding in Barnstaple and in December we had multiple flood events that caused flooding across Devon; including on the 18-21st December where 8 properties flooded internally, the 23rd-24th December where 5 properties flooded internally, and 27th December 2 properties flooded internally. None of these events qualified for a Section 19 report. However, on 14th December 2020 6 properties flooded internally in Harbertonford. A Section 19 Flood Investigation Report is therefore being prepared for the Harbertonford flood event on 14th December as it exceeded our trigger point for investigation of 5 or more properties in a single location.
3.0 Progress of Flood Improvement Projects
3.1 Property Flood Resilience (PFR)
DCC’s funding programme for individual property owners continues to be well received by residents who have suffered internal flooding to their properties. At the time of writing this report, 25 properties had received PFR measures in 2020/21 with a further 13 in progress and 25 in the application phase.
Details of the scheme can be obtained from the DCC FRM website at the following link: https://www.devon.gov.uk/floodriskmanagement/flood-resilience/property-flood-resilience-funding-scheme/
3.2 Exeter Surface Water Improvements
Flood improvement works to protect 55 properties, in the Northbrook catchment of Exeter, are being delivered in 2 phases.
The Phase 1 works at Guinevere Way/Round Table Meet were completed in the 2019/20 financial year. The second phase included the construction of an above ground flood storage area in Hamlin Lane playing fields to intercept surface water flows giving threat to properties in Georges Close and Binford Close. As seen in photo 3.2a below.
The scheme was completed in December 2020, although the final grass seeding is to take place in March 2021.
Despite restrictions and alterations in working methods that were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the scheme has been completed on programme and on budget thanks to the hard work of the Project Engineer in the FRM team, contractor MacPlant, and designers/supervisors Jacobs.
The £175k phase of works will give benefit to 20 residential properties and was funded by a mixture of DCC capital funding, Flood Defence Grant in Aid, Local Levy and a contribution from Exeter City Council.
3.3 Ivybridge, Stibbs lane
The flood improvement scheme for Ivybridge is split into 3 phases with Phase 1 being in the lower catchment to ensure flood risk is not worsened by flood improvement works upstream and was completed in 19/20 fy, phase 3 in the upper catchment providing NFM measures to reduce the impact of overland flows and phase 2 being the main element of works at Stibbs Lane and Claymans Pathway.
The main element of works includes the provision of a new culvert to convey flows downstream from Stibbs Lane, along Claymans Pathway and back into the open watercourse below the worst affected properties. These works were undertaken in 2020.
The contractor started in January 2020 and was immediately encountering the flooding issue first-hand with Storms Brendan, Dennis and Jorge all hitting within a month of each other. These events certainly emphasised the need for the scheme! See photo 3.3a below.
The scheme was also impacted by the restrictions imposed by Covid-19, however working with the contractor, we were able to ensure that disruption to the programme was managed appropriately, minimising delays, whilst ensuring that control measures such as on site social distancing was observed.
Despite the challenges experienced throughout the delivery of the scheme relating to Covid-19, the scheme was completed in November 2020, on budget.
The £650k phase of works will give benefit to 76 residential properties and was funded by a mixture of DCC capital funding, Flood Defence Grant in Aid and Local Levy. All expenditure relating to the Covid-19 pandemic was funded by DEFRA, following successful evidencing and application from DCC FRM.
The scheme being completed prior to Christmas turned out to be perfect timing given the series of weather warnings (both yellow and amber) resulting in intense precipitation in the catchment. On the 23rd December 2020 this resulted in a surface water event that the scheme dealt with diverting the water away from those at risk. Very positive feedback was then received from residents who had lived in fear of flooding for many years. See photo 3.3b below showing the scheme in action.
The first phase of the Sidmouth surface water improvement scheme commenced in late August 2020 following a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The proposal is to attenuate flows within the public open space of the Knowle on Station Road. To incorporate this and blend into the surrounding area, the creation of a below ground attenuation feature and additional above-ground storage will be combined with an amphitheatre arrangement as a multiple use area for the public. This is shown in the plan 3.4a and artists impression 3.4b below.
At the time of writing, despite the poor weather experienced due to start date, the works are progressing and due for completion in March 2020.
Prior to lockdown the Flood & Coastal Risk Management Team and County Council elected member for Sidmouth, Cllr Stewart Hughes, were able to undertake a socially distanced site visit to see how the works were progressing. As seen in photo 3.4c below.
The £850k phase of works will give benefit to 100 residential properties and was funded by a mixture of DCC capital funding, Flood Defence Grant in Aid and Local Levy. All expenditure relating to the Covid-19 pandemic was funded by DEFRA, following successful evidencing and application from DCC FRM.
At the time of writing we are still yet to obtain permission from the landowner to deliver the £130k scheme that will benefit 12 properties. The pandemic has meant that contractor availability to undertake these works is a challenge, however we still hope that we can get the works complete before April 2020. In parallel to this, DCC FRM is working with landowners upstream to improve a series of buddle holes to remove the quantity of water reaching those at risk.
The second and third phases of works in Ugborough was completed in 2020. Building upon the successful PFR installation in 2019, the second and third phases of works here at Ware Cross with the installation of a new culvert under the highway at Ware Cross. As seen in photos 3.6a and 3.6b below.
In addition to the PFR and flood alleviation culvert, the scheme included the delivery of NFM works, to install a series of leaky dams in woodland upstream to slow the flow which will further enhance the performance and standard of protection of the works at Ware Cross. This can be seen in photo 3.6c below.
The works costing £60k will give benefit to 6 residential properties and were funded by DCC Capital funding.
A fourth phase in the Lutterburn Street area is required for the protection of up to 10 more properties. Discussions are ongoing with a local landowner with development proposals that could deliver the flood improvement works as part of their plans and at their expense. Failing this a business case will need to be prepared to justify a request for Defra funding to deliver the works through the public purse.
The scheme here is to be delivered in two phases, a significant upgrade to the highway drainage in the village and a community wide PFR scheme.
The Highway drainage scheme, (installed to reduce the frequency that the PFR would be required), was completed in December 2020 following delays due to Covid-19. The scope of works was expanded once on site due to the discovery of a collapsed culvert; and further enhancements were identified following intense rainfall events during the construction. Photo 3.7a below shows an example of the highway drainage improvements delivered.
The PFR contract has been let and the contractor is, despite challenging conditions due to Covid-19, engaging with the community and finalising the design. Some properties require additional approvals through the planning authority as they are a listed building. This initially caused significant delays, however, we have now set up official lines of communication with them through the contractor to streamline the process. It is proposed that 75% of the properties that require PFR will have their products installed prior to April 2021, with the outstanding properties being finalised before summer 2021.
Natural Flood Management discussions are ongoing with the upstream landowners.
The £750k scheme will give benefit to 45 residential properties and is funded by a mixture of DCC capital funding, Flood Defence Grant in Aid and Local Levy. All expenditure relating to the Covid-19 pandemic was funded by DEFRA, following successful evidencing and application from DCC FRM.
4.0 Development of future schemes
In tandem with schemes being delivered on site, DCC FRM has been working with our new consultants WSP to investigate and develop proposals in locations that are of a high risk of flooding and have been identified as requiring works to alleviate schemes in the coming years, with some being targeted for delivery in 2021-22 financial year. Locations that are currently being investigated include Sidmouth Town Centre, Broadhempston, Beeson, Teignmouth, Colaton Raleigh and Barnstaple.