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Flood Risk Management

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Flood Investigation Report River Exe Floods 12th – 14th January 2023


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Last Updated

River Exe Floods 12th-14th January 2023

Flooded road
Figure 1 – Photo of flooding in Exebridge, Mid Devon on January 12, 2023 (photo credit: Lewis Clarke, DevonLive). [Accessed at: https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/gallery/devon-floods-pictures-show-scenes-8025227 on 21 March 2023].

This flood investigation report has been produced by Devon County Council as a Lead Local Flood Authority under Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. The Council would like to thank the Environment Agency and in particular their flood resilience team for their extensive on the ground investigations that fed into this report.

Version Undertaken by Reviewed by Approved by Date
 1.0 Thomas Aldridge Jessica Bishop Martin Hutchings  20 June 2023

This report covers the flooding incident between 12th and 14th January 2023 and has identified all flooded properties within the County that we have been able to determine or brought to our attention. Based on the criteria set out in our Local Strategy this single report covers the requirement for Section 19 Flood Investigation Reports

1. Introduction

The Flood Risk Regulations 2009 and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (the Act) have established unitary and upper tier local authorities as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for their area. This has placed a number of responsibilities on the LLFA in relation to flood risk management and in particular Section 19 of the Act which states:

Flood and Water Management Act 2010: Section 19 – Local Authorities: investigations

1)     On becoming aware of a flood in its area, a lead local flood authority must, to the extent that it considers it necessary or appropriate, investigate –

a) which risk management authorities have relevant flood risk management functions, and

b) whether each of those risk management authorities has exercised, or is proposing to exercise, those functions in response to the flood.

2)     Where an authority carries out an investigation under subsection (1) it must –

a) publish the results of its investigation, and

b) notify any relevant risk management authorities.

Flood and Water Management Act (2010), S.19, c.29, London: HMSO

A ‘Risk Management Authority’ (RMA) means:

(a) the Environment Agency (EA),

(b) a lead local flood authority,

(c) a district council for an area for which there is no unitary authority,

(d) an internal drainage board,

(e) a water company, and

(f) a highway authority.

When considering if it is necessary or appropriate to investigate a flood event Devon County Council (DCC) will review the severity of the incident, the number of properties affected and the frequency of such an occurrence. Devon’s Local Flood Risk Management Strategy clearly sets out the criteria to be used when considering a Flood Investigation Report.

Although not all of the locations in this report meet the significance threshold of 5 or more properties flooded, to ensure that the full extent of the flooding is appreciated and recorded it has been decided to include all locations brought to our attention which experienced any internal property flooding, and also other areas of particular concern.

In partnership with the other RMAs in Devon this report has been produced to comply with legislation and to determine the main causes of the flooding. It should be noted that in order to progress with their flood risk management function DCC has opted to develop this report further by considering the various actions that should be considered by the relevant RMA. DCC as the LLFA will continue to monitor the list of actions with all of the RMAs and will assist in the delivery where practical to do so.

Each affected area or group of smaller areas investigated within this report will have a number of recommended actions to be taken forward by the relevant RMAs or in some cases, by the landowner or local community action group. There are various levels of action that can be taken depending on the severity of the situation and the practical solutions available to reduce the risk of further flooding. The recommended actions will generally fall into one of the following categories:

Delivery of Quick win schemes: a solution that can be implemented quickly by the Risk Management Authorities or Local Authority at relatively low cost; some of these have already been completed as this report has been progressed.

Further investigation/research: Further investigations such as catchment studies and hydrological/hydraulic assessments to understand the flow rates and directional paths and evaluate the extent of flooding. These would provide evidence for future capital investment.

Development of future schemes: Where immediate action is not financially viable or a solution not readily available then a larger scale flood alleviation scheme may be required. In such cases national funding would need to be secured together with additional contributions from others, such as local levy, local authorities and other third parties.

Landowner action: Members of the public who own land adjacent to watercourses have riparian responsibilities and therefore have a duty to maintain their section of watercourse to ensure there is no impediment of flow. Other works to protect their property may also need to be funded by themselves to ensure delivery within their timescales.

Community action: In some cases it may be prudent for community groups to join forces and deliver and maintain their own local schemes. In some cases this may generate further contributions from local levy or the LLFA.

This investigation report will provide a starting point, with suggested actions being further refined in the light of further studies and where possible, through further dialog with the affected communities.

 

Recommended Actions:

The purpose of this report is to act as a tool for all of the relevant RMAs to understand and appreciate the extent of flooding in their area and to consider and prioritise those actions relevant to their authority. Due to the extent of flooding, not only from the events covered in this report, the level of recommended actions far exceeds the budgets and resources available to enable them to be delivered immediately. Although we take all flooding issues seriously it should therefore be appreciated that some actions may not be progressed within the timescales expected by some residents or communities. Every effort will be made to progress the actions if and when suitable funding is obtained.

The recommended actions highlighted in this report will be used by the LLFA to monitor progress achieved by the RMAs.

2. Risk Management Authority Responsibilities

2.1 Recording Flood Incidents

LLFAs must record flood incidents as part of their duties under the Flood and Water Management Act. The information below shows the national guidance given as part of the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment Spreadsheet submission to the EA, which outlines information to be collected by LLFAs.

Information the LLFA must record

Devon County Council (DCC) will record this on the DCC flood incident database:

  • Start Date
  • Days duration
  • Probability
  • Main source: Surface water runoff; Groundwater; Ordinary watercourses; Artificial infrastructure; Main rivers; The sea; No data
  • Main mechanism: Natural exceedance; Defence exceedance; Failure; Blockage or restriction; or No data
  • Main characteristics: Natural flood; Flash flood; Deep flood; Snow melt flood; No data
  • Significant consequences:
    • To human health (residential properties)
    • To economy (non-residential properties)
    • To the environment (designated sites flooded)

2.2 Key Responsibilities

RMAs in Devon all have their own roles and responsibilities. The general RMA responsibilities in relation to flood risk and surface water management are outlined below:

The Environment Agency is responsible for managing the risk from the sea, Main Rivers and reservoirs and has a strategic overview role for all flood risk management, making it a key local partner for DCC, especially when managing the risk from combined sources and in the event of a large flood incident. The EA also provides a flood warning service throughout England and Wales in areas at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea.

Devon County Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority is responsible for overseeing the flood risk from Ordinary Watercourses, groundwater and surface water runoff. They are also responsible for consenting to works on Ordinary Watercourses and enforcing the removal of any unlawful structure or obstruction within the watercourse. And, as previously stated they must ensure that a flooding investigation is carried out by the relevant authority and publish a report. DCC must also prepare a Local Flood Risk Management Strategy and maintain a register of flood risk assets.

Local District Councils are classified as land drainage authorities with discretionary powers under the Land Drainage Act, such as the implementation and maintenance of flood defences on ordinary watercourses. They also have powers under the Public Health Act to ensure the removal of any blockage within an Ordinary watercourse that is considered a nuisance. As a planning authority they are responsible for the preparation of development plans and making decisions based on planning policy.

Devon County Council as the Highway Authority maintains the highway drainage system to reduce the amount of standing water on the highway. This is achieved by limiting the water on the roads and ensuring that they are kept clear of rainwater; including the maintenance of highway gullies and culverts.

National Highways is responsible for managing, maintaining and improving the Motorway and trunk roads across England and any associated drainage and flood risk.

Land/Property Owners that have a watercourse in or adjacent to their land have riparian responsibilities on that watercourse. This means the landowner must:

  • Let water flow through their land without any obstruction, pollution or diversion which affects the rights of others.
  • Accept flood flows through their land, even if these are caused by inadequate capacity downstream.
  • Keep the banks clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk, either on their land or downstream if it is washed away.
  • Maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse and the trees and shrubs growing on the banks and should also clear any litter or debris from the channel and banks, even if it did not come from their land.
  • Keep any structures, such as culverts, trash screens and debris grills, weirs and mill gates, clear of debris.

The LLFA must also take an overseeing role to ensure that all flood risk is being managed appropriately.

In small, localised groundwater and surface water flooding incidents which do not reach the threshold level to trigger a flood investigation by the LLFA under Section 19, the Local Authorities will work in partnership to consider the appropriate action.

All RMAs have a duty to co-operate and to share information in relation to their flood risk management functions.

3. Incident Summary

3.1 Incident Summary

On the 12th to 14th January 2023, significant flooding was experienced in Devon as a result of a prolonged and heavy period of rainfall. Watercourses overtopped, and drainage systems became overwhelmed which led to multiple properties flooding in Mid Devon. The areas worst affected were the communities along the River Exe of Bickleigh, Exebridge and Oakfordbridge. In total, 27 properties recorded internal flooding with 24 of these on the River Exe (23 residential and 4 commercial).

The Exe catchment affected has seen a variety of flood risk reduction works undertaken in the past by the Environment Agency, Devon County Council and individuals themselves. Whilst it is difficult to attribute a figure to the properties protected from previous Environment Agency schemes in this location it is clear these played an effective role. A quick assessment of property flood resilience and its impact on property flooding has however been possible. Five properties are known to have prevented internal flooding in this incident using property flood resilience (PFR) either funded through Devon County Council’s individual PFR scheme or through measures funded by the residents themselves, see example in Figure 2. A further two properties it is believed would have been prevented from internal flooding from PFR had drivers of large vehicles adhered to the road closure in place during the peak floodwaters. Unfortunately, council staff witnessed PFR being overtopped due to bow waves of vehicles through a closed road.

Image of property with PFR flood barrier installed on door.
Figure 2 – showing a property in Mid Devon protected using PFR funded by the homeowner themselves during the January flood incident. Photo provided to DCC by homeowner.

Flood alerts were issued for the following rivers; Exe, Lynher, Clyst, Culm, Otter, Sid, Exmouth area, Teign, South Devon Rivers as well as rivers primarily located in neighbouring Somerset and Cornwall.

The flood alert issued by the Environment Agency for immediate action on Thursday 12 January 2023 at 7:53am for the Exe from Exebridge to Tiverton and at 9:50am for Tiverton to Exeter were in the most part an accurate depiction of the event that was to follow later. Areas had early warning in the week and had separately had a flood alert the previous week on 6 January 2023. The flood warnings were automated during this period due to industrial action and the implications of this are recognised further within this report.

Table 1 below lists the towns and villages affected on this date together with the reported number of properties flooded in each location. These have been identified on Figure 3 to show the geographical extent of flooding across Devon. Rainfall data for the event is visualised in Figure 4. It should be noted that the flooded locations have been reported alphabetically and not in any order of priority.

Table 1 List of towns and villages affected by internal property flooding

Location Number of properties flooded Source of flooding
Mid Devon
Bampton 3 Main River
Bickleigh 8 Main River
Cove 1 Main River
Exebridge 5 Main River
Oakfordbridge 6 Main River
North Devon
Alswear 1 Main River/Surface Water
Combe Martin 1 Surface Water
Fremington 1 Surface Water
Teignbridge
Moretonhampstead 1 Surface Water
Total properties flooded: 27

Flood Map

Figure 3 – A map of Devon with locations marked where there were reports of internal property flooding between 12th and 14th January 2023

Rainfall Totals

Figure 4 shows significant rainfall countywide. A more detailed look in Tables 2, 3 and 4 shows rainfall gauge data provided by the Environment Agency gauges between 11th and 14th January. This highlights the high rainfall that areas of southern Exmoor received on what already was a saturated catchment.

Radar image
Figure 4 – Radar image showing the 24 hour rainfall accumulation on 12 January 2023 at 11:45am.

 

Table 2 – 24 hour rainfall totals for raingauges in the Exe catchment in Mid Devon and West Somerset from 11 January 2023

24 hours (from 12:00 11/01/2023) 12 hours (from 21:15 11/01/2023) 8 hours (from 21:15 11/01/2023)
Kinsford Gate RG 37mm 25mm 21mm
Blackpitts 72mm 56mm 35mm
Hawkridge RG 74mm 50mm 32mm
Haddon Hill RG 54mm 36mm 21mm
Tiverton 24mm 13mm 7mm

 

Table 3 – 24 hour rainfall totals for raingauges in the Exe catchment in Mid Devon and West Somerset from 13 January 2023

24 hours (from 22:00 13/01/2023) 12 hours (from 22:00 13/01/2023) 8 hours (from 23:00 13/01/2023)
Kinsford Gate RG 13mm 11mm 10mm
Blackpitts 47mm 43mm 40mm
Hawkridge RG 34mm 31mm 26mm
Haddon Hill RG 27mm 26mm 21mm
Tiverton 21mm 21mm 18mm

 

Table 4 – Rainfall total for raingauges in the Exe catchment in Mid Devon and West Somerset from 11 January 2023.

Total recorded rainfall in 4 days (from 00:15 11/01/2023).
Kinsford Gate RG 58mm
Blackpitts 129mm
Hawkridge RG 118mm
Haddon Hill RG 87mm
Tiverton 51mm

River gauge data from the Pixton Environment Agency gauge shows the peak level of 2.12m on 12 January 2023 which was only 0.12m lower than the December 2012 flooding which caused internal flooding to over 327 properties Devon wide. The rising limb of the hydrograph shown on Figure 5 rises moderately steeply on the 12 January indicating a river toward the top of its normal range through the days prior to the flood incident, followed by a significant response within the River Exe following 24 hours of heavy rainfall on 11 and 12 January with a peak on the afternoon of 12 January 2023.

The graphical data from UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology shows a very high flow rate on 12 January 2023 and Figure 6 shows a comparison to the last 5 years, where the peak flow rate on 12 January is shown clearly as the high River Exe flow at Pixton. In December 2012, a flow rate of 74.3 m3/s is recorded at Pixton, the largest flood incident in the area since the 1960s. Current data albeit unchecked suggests a flow rate at the same gauging station as reaching a peak flow of 70.4 m3/s, the highest since 2012. Figure 7 shows a photo of the gauge close to its peak.

Figure 5 – Graph showing height data from EA’s Pixton river gauge between 8th and 13th January 2023

 

Figure 6 – Graph replicated from UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology showing flow rate (m3/s) for the River Exe at the EA’s Pixton Gauging Station from January 2019 until February 2023 [Accessed at: https://nrfa.ceh.ac.uk/content/uk-water-resources-portal on 21 March 2023].
Figure 7 – Pixton gauge photographed close to its peak (Source: Environment Agency, January 2023)

The Pixton gauge is located within Somerset just north of the affected settlements along the River Exe in January 2023, all gauges referenced are shown in Figure 8.

Gauge (river) Peak level Time (all 12 Jan 23) Additional information
Tiverton (EXE) 3.13m 2.30pm to 8pm Peak in Dec 2012 was 3.58m
Tiverton (Lowman) 0.86m 12.45pm Within ‘Normal Range’
Rewe (Culm) 1.0-1.4m All Day Just above ‘Normal Range’
Cowley Bridge (Creedy) Up to 1.7m All Day Within Normal Range
Pynes Stafford Bridge (Exe) 4.92m 8pm Highest Level recorded for gauge

Lower reaches of the Exe appear to have avoided significant flood incidents due to the less intense rainfall in other river catchments, meaning there was considerably lower peak flows for watercourses that feed into the Lower Exe such as from the River Culm and Creedy during this event in January.

Figure 8 – map showing Environment Agency’s river gauges with the gauges referenced within the report labelled.

3.2 Data and Information Collation

It should be noted that this report is only based on the information brought to the attention of DCC through its professional partners, the media and the public and where further investigation by the authorities have identified additional flooded properties. Therefore, it cannot be guaranteed to contain an exact or exhaustive list of individual properties or affected communities for the January 2023 event.

3.3 Highway Drainage and Sewerage Impacts

During this event from 12 January to 14 January 2023 significant surface water flooding affected the Highway network across Devon. Highway drainage systems in several areas struggled to cope with the heavy rainfall, sometimes causing them to overflow onto the highway. Typically, these highway drainage and sewer systems are not designed to cope with intense rainfall events. Roads along the Exe, including the A396 a key north-south route for Mid Devon, were wholly inundated by the river. As part of the investigation, it will be recommended that Devon County Council Highways review
the highway gullies and consider whether any maintenance issues require attention.

There were no reports of significant flooding on the National Highways network within Devon.

South West Water reported no reports of flooding during the period of this flood event in the communities along the River Exe covered by this Section 19 Investigation.

Notable areas of the highway affected are detailed in the following list:

  • Flooding to the A396 led to its closure at Oakfordbridge, Exebridge and near
    Bickleigh Bridge
  • B3233 Anstey Way, Instow
  • A386 between Bideford and Landcross
  • The A399 Southbound only was closed just south of a wildlife park due to a
    landslip attributed to the heavy rainfall
  • Exeter Road between Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton was closed due to
    flooding
  • Road past Gage Mill near Ashburton was flooded and impassable
  • A3052 Boshill Hill Cross near Axmouth
  • A376 near Lympstone
  • A377 between Umberleigh and Barnstaple reported as flooding
  • A3124 near St Giles in the Wood saw over 15 inches of flooding

4. Flood Incident Extent and Impact

4.1 Bickleigh

4.1.1 Flood Incident Extent and Impact

Bickleigh experienced significant flooding from the River Exe and the Mill Leat, as shown in Figure 9, both of which are classified as Main River.

The River Exe overtopped its banks leading to extensive flooding of the A396 and property along this road. The A396 at Bickleigh Bridge was closed by Devon County Council Highways Team. Unfortunately, following the closure of the road it is known that large vehicles drove through the floodwaters creating bow waves that increased the impact of the flooding to some properties.

Eight properties overall reported flooding. Five of these properties reported internal flooding between low level seepage to a maximum depth of 5cm during this event. Whilst one property reported flooding to 45cm and another to approximately 1m deep. Flood levels compared to December 2012 were marginally lower where known.

Two properties were known to have avoided internal flooding in Bickleigh due to property flood resilience measures installed. One of the two properties was a recipient of PFR under Devon County Council’s individual funding scheme with measures installed in 2018. It also sits adjacent to another property that saw significant depths of flooding internally.

Residents reported that the Mill Leat and its banks were in poor condition prior to the flood incident and was locally attributed to adding to the flooding issue for a few of the properties affected in Bickleigh. The flood bank upstream of any properties however was overtopped, see Figure 10. It is anecdotally reported that river levels were higher in 2016/17 within the Mill Leat when no internal flooding was reported than in January 2023.

Figure 9 – photo on 12 January 2023 showing aerial image of Bickleigh provided to Devon Live by Warren Radmore. [Accessed at: https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/gallery/devon-floods-pictures-show-scenes-8025227 on 21 March 2023]
Figure 10 – Marked up photo with red line showing the overtopping of a flood bank upstream of properties in Bickleigh (Source: Environment Agency, January 2023)

4.1.2 Historic Flooding

There is an extensive history of flooding in Bickleigh much of which is associated with flooding of the River Exe.

More than 20 incidents are recorded between August 1960 and December 1999 where 1-5 properties were reported as flooding due to the River Exe. Below is a list of notable events recorded in the 21st Century only.

  • 7 December 2000 – 5+ properties flooded – Main River
  • 29 December 2000 – 5+ properties flooded – Main River
  • 21 November 2002 – 2 properties flooded to 2 inches – Main River
  • 22 December 2012 – 6 properties and 2 commercial flooded from the River Exe with depths of up to 1.3m. The 2012 event is recorded as the worst flooding reported since 1965 in Bickleigh.
  • 15 February 2020 – 1 property flooded

4.1.3 Data Gathered

Bickleigh is covered by the Environment Agency’s flood warning service. It has been confirmed that from Monday 9th to Sunday 22nd January due to Industrial Action taken by Environment Agency employees that the flood warning service was automated. According to an Environment Agency briefing note “Flood warning during these periods are issued with different lead times, under different conditions and with limited community specific information”. The Environment Agency have acknowledged that “this did lead to some property flooding, and also gave customers/partners less time to prepare or take action”.

Concerns were raised by residents in Bickleigh that flood warnings were not updated and that there were many warnings earlier in the week that didn’t come to pass. Whilst the flood warnings were provided in time for many residents to prepare for flooding, one resident reported having to rely on their own previous experiences of flooding to undertake preparedness actions instead of the EA warning as they had done previously.

4.2 Oakfordbridge

Oakfordbridge saw six properties report internal flooding.  This total incorporates properties east and north of the hamlet itself on Hamslade Hill. Properties here were impacted by out of bank flows along the River Exe enhanced by material caught on structures crossing the Exe. The scale of the flooding and in particular, the road flooding in and around Oakfordbridge can be seen in Figures 11, 12 and 13.

The recorded flood levels for one property was 20cm below those recorded in December 2012. The recorded flood levels were more than 1m lower than those recorded in August 1952. The 1952 event is believed to be the biggest ever event recorded on the River Exe north of Tiverton.

Another property reported less than 10cm of internal flooding whilst they had experienced flood levels in 2012 of 1m.

Figure 11 – Photo looking downstream at Hamslade Hill Road Bridge crossing the River Exe, Photo courtesy of DCC Highways Contractor taken during the flood incident of 12 – 14th January 2023
Photo taken from Hamslade Hill, Oakfordbridge, looking south east with Hamslade Hill Road Bridge Crossing just out of sight. Photo courtesy of DCC Highways Contractor taken on 12 January 2023

Flooding on A396 in Oakfordbridge. Photo Credit: Devon Live dated 12 January 2023 [Accessed at:
https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/live-updates-a396-closed-river-8022253?int_source=nba on 21 March 2023]
4.2.2 Historic Flooding

Incidents where 1-5 properties were reported as flooding occurred in 1986, 1995, 1996, 1999. Oakfordbridge was also subject to significant levels of flooding in 1965 alongside other communities along the Exe.

  • 30 October 2000 – 1 property recorded as flooded – River Exe.
  • 22 December 2012 – 7 properties were recorded as flooding with depths over 1m deep – River Exe.
  • 19 November 2016 – 1 property recorded as flooding – River Exe.

4.3 Exebridge

4.3.1 Flood Incident Extent and Impact

Exebridge straddles the border between Devon and Somerset. The affected areas were visited by the Environment Agency and all information on the affected Somerset areas was passed to the respective Environment Agency team and Somerset Lead Local Flood Authority. This report willfocus solely on the areas falling within the county of Devon.

In Exebridge, one commercial property and five residential properties were flooded internally ranging from 5-10cm deep within the property. Some properties in this location had been fitted with property flood resilience measures, unfortunately some of these were of poor construction and/or were overtopped due to bow waves from large vehicles, this was despite significant depths along the B3222 in Exebridge reaching over 0.5m deep, as can be seen in Figure 14.

Figure 14 – showing vehicles submerged over 0.5m deep on the B3222 road in Exebridge (Credit: Environment Agency)

4.3.2 Historic Flooding

There is an extensive history of flooding in Exebridge much of which is associated with flooding of the River Exe.

Exebridge saw significant flooding in the 1960s when multiple properties were reported as flooding due to the River Exe. Below is a list of notable events recorded in the last 30 years.

  • October 1994 – 5 properties flooded from the River Exe.
  • February 1995 – 10 properties recorded as flooding – surface water/main river.
  • March 1996 – 3 properties flooded from the River Exe.
  • October 1998 – 3 properties flooded from the River Exe.
  • 30 October 2000 – 6+ properties in Devon recorded as flooded from the River Exe.
  • 22 December 2012 – 5 properties recorded as flooding within Devon. 7 residential and 2 commercial premises over the border in Somerset were flooded. Recorded as the worst event since 1965 with flood depths up to 1.3m.
  • 19 November 2016 – 1 property recorded as flooding from the River Exe

4.3.3 Data Gathered

The Exebridge gauge board in Figure 15 saw a peak depth of 3.3m which is half a metre lower than the 3.8m reported by residents in December 2012.

Figure 15 – Photo showing Exebridge board gauge under 2.8m of water, marked with a red line, with the peak during the incident marked as 3.3m on the gauge board visualised with a green line.

4.4 Mid and North Devon

4.4.1 Rural Bampton, Mid Devon

Three properties in rural locations along the River Exe close to Bampton were recorded as internally flooding to depths ranging between 2 and 4 inches. One of the properties saw 3 inches of flooding despite having property flood resilience in place.

Bridges along the River Exe saw significantly sized material washed up against them. Video footage shows that flows were able to continually be conveyed underneath the bridges and this material was cleared at the earliest point feasible. Flooded properties within what is referred within this report as rural Bampton were often near structures along the watercourse where flows were unable to be conveyed freely during the event. There is no evidence to suggest that these structures weren’t in good condition prior to the event nor that they were the sole factor in causing flooding to property. Due to trees impeding flows particularly ones at Halfpenny Bridge, see Figure 16, this increased the risk of flooding to properties in the immediate vicinity.

Figure 16 – Photo looking at upstream section of Halfpenny Bridge crossing the River Exe, shows the large material that washed up against the bridge during the event. Photo courtesy of DCC Highways Contractor taken post event on 17 January 2023

4.4.2 Cove, Mid Devon

Local roads in the Cove area saw flooding, see Figure 17. A single property was recorded as flooding due to the River Exe overtopping its banks. Informal reports suggest that the one property flooded despite considerable community efforts to prevent it. It is noted that the property affected experienced greater depths in 1965 and 2012.

Figure 17 – photo on 12 January 2023 showing floodwaters in Cove (Credit Lewis Clarke, Devon Live). [Accessed at:
https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/live-updates-a396-closed-river-8022253?int_source=nba on 21 March 2023]
4.4.3 Alswear, North Devon

Surface water and the River Mole overtopping its banks on 12th and 14th January 2023 led to a single property reporting internal flooding, this property had 3 previous records of internal flooding in the 21st century.

Locals reported 60cm deep floodwaters adjacent to the bridge over the River Mole as local roads experienced flooding.

4.4.4 Combe Martin, North Devon

Surface water flooding was reported along Kingsley Terrace in Combe Martin due to surface water flows off the road network and into a single residential property.

The heavy rain was also attributed to a landslide which led to the closure of the A399 just south of Combe Martin Wildlife & Dinosaur Park.

4.4.5 Fremington, North Devon

A property near Lydacott, south of Fremington, reported internal flooding. It is understood following a site investigation that this was due to heavy localised rainfall. Alongside combined factors of surface water runoff becoming channelled by the highway network and a local easement for draining the highway on private land being blocked with material. Local land management is to be investigated further to understand the impact that this may have had upon flows onto the highway network and ultimately the residential property.

External flooding of a residential property in Mill Road, Fremington was also reported.

4.5 Rest of Devon

4.5.1 Moretonhampstead, Teignbridge

A single property was reported as flooding along Station Road, Moretonhampstead from surface water runoff. Flooding has been reported multiple times in the preceding 6-month period. Following the flood event, DCC Highways and a local landowner have visited areas identified by residents as potentially exacerbating surface water flooding, to ensure that drainage networks are working effectively.

4.5.2 Tiverton, Mid Devon

Tiverton had no reports of internal property flooding during the event 12-14th January 2023.

There was flooding reported within Tiverton to the road network and the grounds of the local high school shown through photos provided below in Figures 18, 19 and 20.

Figure 18 – photo showing flooded road adjacent to Morrisons Petrol Station in Tiverton on 12 January 2023 (Credit Lewis Clarke, Devon Live). [Accessed at: https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/gallery/devon-floods-pictures-show-scenes-8025227 on 21 March 2023]
Figure 19 – photo on 12 January 2023 showing aerial image of Tiverton provided to Devon Live by Jonny Wright [Accessed at: https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/gallery/devon-floods-pictures-show-scenes-8025227 on 21 March 2023]
Figure 20 – photo showing Tiverton High School flooded grounds on 12 January 2023 from Devon Live. [Accessed at: https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/gallery/devon-floods-pictures-show-scenes-8025227 on 21 March 2023]
4.5.3 Other externally affected locations

External flooding by residential properties was also reported to Devon County Council in the following locations highlighting the impact county wide;

  • Wrangaton Road, Bittaford
  • Victoria Road, Exmouth
  • Mole Bridge Lane and The Gavel, South Molton
  • Road from Doctors Corner, Witheridge
  • Cromwells Meadow, Crediton
  • Bay View Road, Northam
  • Rookabear Avenue, Roundswell
  • Whitchurch Road, Tavistock
  • Brynsworthy, Barnstaple

As a result of this investigation report, several recommendations have been made for actions to be taken in specific locations. These are either as a result of initial site or desktop investigations, or the continuation of works or investigations already in progress. DCC as the LLFA will continue to monitor and record all flood incidents that come to our attention and consider this within our action plan and future investment programme. The current action plan can be found on the DCC Flood Risk Management Website at https://www.devon.gov.uk/floodriskmanagement/. Table 5.1 below summarises the recommended actions for this flood incident.

Table 5.1. Recommended actions for the affected communities in Devon.

Action By Recommended Action How
General actions recommended for the areas featured in this chapter:
EA /LLFA / Local communities Increase community resilience to all affected communities. Where applicable assist with the development of community emergency/flood action plans. Advice and possible funding available from Devon Community Resilience Forum.
DCC Highways / National Highways To ensure efficient operation of highway drains and culverts. Review and carry out maintenance in problem areas
Property Owners / LLFA / EA Consider flood risk to own properties. To install property level protection where necessary in liaison with appropriate Risk Management Authorities. To consider offering PFR to residents including those with sub-standard measures in place.
SWW Ensure efficient operation of public combined and surface water sewers. Continue maintenance regime and consider storm separation where appropriate.
In addition to the general actions the following should be considered at specific locations:

Communities along the River Exe, Mid Devon

Environment Agency (EA) EA to consider residents requests for updating flood warnings on the Exe more frequently during event EA to review flood warning alerts process internally and the impact of using an automated system
Environment Agency EA to investigate and assist with progressing any necessary works to the condition of banks of the millstream in Bickleigh. EA to follow up and support the riparian landowner.
Devon County Council (DCC) DCC to ensure structures along the River Exe are flowing freely. DCC to inspect condition of structures along the River Exe and consider requirements for maintenance and improvements.
Environment Agency/South West Water To continue support for Natural Flood Management measures and promote works already undertaken to encourage wider landowner involvement To continue to support Exmoor Mires Partnership and other NFM works in the area

Fremington, North Devon

LLFA Site visit to understand existing land management in direct vicinity to affected property North Devon UNESCO Biosphere staff supported by the LLFA to provide land management advice where appropriate

6. Next Steps

The next steps following this report will be for DCC as the LLFA to ensure that the recommended action tables in each chapter are presented to the responsible Risk Management Authority. DCC will consider their actions in line with other priorities and monitor delivery through regular reviews, whilst working in partnership with the EA, District Councils, South West Water and the local communities affected.

There is an expectation from DCC of itself and its partners that all authorities involved will cooperate and work together to reduce the flood risk in the vulnerable areas identified in this report by completing the recommended actions. As the LLFA, DCC has a responsibility to oversee the delivery of these actions.

Where minor works and quick win schemes have been identified, these will be prioritised and subject to available funding and resources will be carried out as soon as possible by the relevant authority or landowner. Any major works requiring capital investment will be considered through the EA’s Medium-Term Plan process.

A review of the actions will be carried out by DCC as the LLFA to monitor progress and encourage delivery of recommended actions.


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