Flood Alleviation Report

 This was sent to Shropshire Council’s Chief Executive in August 2011

FLOOD ALLEVIATION

 I didn’t realise, I fear, that you chair Shropshire’s Flood body so am somewhat abashed!  Nonetheless, I did tell Keith I’d offer suggestions …. After attending a Catchment Management Conference at Lancaster University, I did establish a few contacts – AND it was confirmed, as Professor Bains told SCC a few years ago, that a couple of simple strategies can have a very significant impact in terms of run-off retention and flood alleviation, viz:

 1.         buffer strips (fencing against grazing a few metres alongside watercourses; and

 2.         afforestation.

 [Associated strategies might include : contour ploughing; replanting by brooks; fencing off old watercourses; appropriate crops, e.g. no potatoes, by streams].

 First question – Do they work?  Yes! as I’m sure you know.  The evidence base is very strong.  Indeed, buffer strips clock in within a very short rime.

 [See notes at end].

 So : The key questions

 1.         Who leads?

 2.         Who pays (indeed, to whom!)

 

1.         Leader?  Frankly, I’d always thought it should be the E.A. …. But there’s not clear evidence of their coming forward.  However, I’ve no reservations about their keen‑ness as partners.  Shropshire Council is unique in having a democratic legitimacy, so your leading it – perhaps with the Cabinet lead – must be entirely appropriate.

 2.         Other partners – clearly intimately linked with funders/fundees – could include CLA, NFU, EA, E.Nature, S.Trent, Defra, OFWAT (who gave a prominent report at Lancaster) … etc.  (National Trust and other large landowners?).

 3.         Funders that have been identified to me include : Defra, SITA Trust (or equivalents), Nat England, E.A., EU Agri-Env. Schemes?

             We can press this more broadly.  If you looked at who paid the costs of clearing up Tenbury – twice, I think? ….

 County Council

District Council

Fire/Police

Business/Insurers

EA/S.Trent?

             We could add to the list.  The basic point being, of course, that all these ‘victims’, by paying relatively small amounts on preventative measures will avoid disastrous events/costs in the future.  Preventative measures, at least for quite a few years, will perforce be cumulative – short-term ‘project’ funds do not answer.

             Similarly, farmers especially need the carrot of eco-friendly farming funding since no government has ever had the stomach for the stick of legislative prohibitions.

             THE FUNDS IDENTIFIED HAVE OFTEN COME THROUGH ‘ENHANCING BIO-DIVERSITY’ RATHER THAN, NARROWLY, FLOOD ALLEVIATION – AND THE STRATEGIES I IDENTIFIED OFTEN DELIVERY BOTH.

             Our own Highway Department could be a very interested player (+ funder!) … water across roads does huge damage (meaning ice, too, of course).  We have a large severe water reserve …. we should be looking at prevention of run off.

             Highways solution to standing water – culverts – may not help the matter.

             Else within the Authority, we have Floods Officer, Land Drainage responsibilities and a Bio Diversity brief.  This – I expect there’s more – is enough to give us a role, indeed a responsibility.

             All the foregoing is by way of appealing to Shropshire Council

 –        to acknowledge the problem (I’m sure we do);

 –        to identify key/simple strategies; and

 –        as Community Leader to:

 (a)        bang the drum;

 (b)        ..er .. knock heads together (gently)

           HOWEVER – As Lord Smith acknowledged 3 or 4 years ago – some good things ARE happening : drum-banging would aid them, disseminate information and good practice : and encourage rollout/replication.

            Taking communities – geographical as well as interests – with us is clearly vital.  The AONB’s Blue Remembered Hills activities led, inter alia, to the Upper Clun Community catchment which sustains itself long after the initial funding expired.  These people support catchment-sensitive farming etc.  I’m indebted to our own Mike Perry for his briefing.  BUT the activities are facilitated (paid for) via the threat to the pearl mussel :  Upper Clun is one of only three sites in the UK for these bivalves and is a S.A.C.

            Similarly, Martin Davies – who formerly worked for our Museums Services! – has a similar project running on Nat. Trust land in Upper Wharfedale, Yorks:

* I attach his Report on this (I met him in Lancaster) (1)

            (He also sent an E.A. book on river management techniques – I’ll give this to David L Edwards, together with the other presentations).

            Prof. Keith Beven, who chaired the Lancaster event sent an email which was very poignant …. very academic twitchiness about jumping off the fence as to what really works!!!

            * I attach his email ² not so much for that as for his attached summaries of catchment management techniques which probably do work …. possibly he softens my brutal simplicity!

Finally, Mike Kelly at the AONB and David L Edwards are clearly very well informed : my report is merely a few footnotes to expertise/knowledge held within Shropshire Council and other bodies.  The AONB, interestingly already links with Lancaster University; and I think David sees opportunities in their offer.

As with so many things – and I think Shropshire Council has now had THREE Task and Finish Groups on these matters! – It would be great to distil a couple of simple messages and Take Action !!

In which context, I hope this may be helpful.

 

Best wishes.

Peter

P.S. For completion I attach ³ my Conference report from last summer.

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