This item has been placed on the agenda at the request of Ward Councillors.
Representatives of the Council, United Utilities and the Environment Agency have been invited to the meeting to discuss the recent flooding in Offerton.
The Chair reported that this item had been included on the agenda in light of the recent flooding that had occurred on the Bosden Farm Estate and Bean Leach Road between 8 and 11 June 2016. Representatives of Council, the Environment Agency and United Utilities were in attendance and the Chair invited them to provide a summary of their activities during this period.
Tony Griffith (Strategic Manager), accompanied by Samantha Ashall (Network Manager) and Craig Daniels (Network Engineer), explained that staff from United Utilises (UU) responded to an incidence of flooding on 8 June 2016, that was mostly confined to Shearwater Road and Fulmar Drive. This was due to the heavy and persistent rain experienced, which included 1 in 8 year rain event. Following this, UU investigated the sewer network and found no impediments and low levels of sediment within the network. UU also undertook cleansing operations.
A further incidence of flooding was reported and responded to on 11 June 2016 following more severe and persistent rain, which included a 1 in 160 year rain event. This water was discharged into a network and water course that was already at capacity.
UU were currently processing payments to affected residents to provide refunds on annual sewage charges and an additional discretionary payment as a good will gesture.
Further cleansing works were also being undertaken to provide additional levels of assurance of the robustness of the network.
Peter Costello (Partnership and Strategic Overview Greater Manchester team leader) explained that the Environment Agency (EA) responded to the flooding incident on 11 June 2016 following heavy rain, during which 46ml of rain had fallen within a 2 hour period.
EA were aware of 134 properties that had been affected by flooding, and were working with partners to identify root causes and solutions. EA also had sent teams to inspect and clear water courses.
EA were also making arrangements to hold local engagement events with residents.
Sandrine Thomas (Flood Risk Officer) reported that EA had been undertaking assessments of the area and speaking to residents to better understand the pattern of flooding that would then help refine the flood modelling. This would then inform discussions about future flood defence and mitigation measures.
She also commented that climate change was creating more frequent flooding events due to increased frequency of severe rainfall events, and that although agencies would do what they could to address this, it would not be possible to remove all risk.
Paul Heaton (Field Maintenance Team Leader) explained the role of his team in ensuring that water courses were free of obstructions and to respond to any issues during periods of heavy rain. He also explained that EA had equipment in particular locations to monitor water flow and blockages.
Michael Cullen (Borough Treasurer and Incident Commander from 13 June onward), accompanied by Sue Stevenson (Strategy and Growth Manager
Highways and Transportation) and Karl Astbury (AGMA Civil Contingencies and Resilience Unit) outlined the actions taken by the Council in response to the flooding. In particular, he referred to the following actions:-
· 150 sandbags had been deployed across the borough
· 6 skips delivered to affected areas on Tuesday 13 June, with over 19 tonnes of rubbish removed by 21 June 2016.
· Establishment of a Flooding Helpline for residents and business affected.
· Submission of an application for funding from the Greater Manchester Relief Fund to assist residents. Provisional approval had been given to provide £100 per internally flooded property.
· As part of the Council’s statutory responsibilities, it had commissioned an independent Review from Jacobs to assess the causes and the response of partners to the flooding.
· Damage to Council infrastructure (such as highways etc) was estimated at £800,000.
It was recognised that the out-of-hours capacity of the Council call-centre had not been sufficient to cope with the volume of calls and further consideration would need to be given to how this could managed in the event of high levels of unanticipated demand.
The Chair echoed the comments about with the capacity of the Council’s call-centre, and expressed disappointment at the lack of communication with ward councillors during the incident.
The Chair also expressed disappointment at the delay in providing skips following the floods and the relatively small amount of compensation being offered by the Greater Manchester Relief Fund in comparison to that provided to residents elsewhere in the North West following flooding at Christmas.
In response, it was commented that the Council, although not required to provide skips, had done so, but that the delays in their deployment had been due to concerns about whether this may invalidate residents’ insurance policies.
In relation to the compensation, it was commented that the reasons for the higher value of payments to the floods that had taken place earlier in the year was because central Government had agreed to finance these costs. The Council was in discussions with Government departments about whether they would provide additional support.
Members of the public were then invited to ask questions. These included the following:-
· Clarification was sought on the rainwater outlet into the Poise Brook. In response, a representative of United Utilities confirmed that the outlet was set above the normal water level for the Brook, although it may currently be partially submerged due to high levels of rainfall. The diameter of the pipe indicated that it was designed to accommodate periods of high rainfall. As cleansing of the system had resulted in little sediment within the network, this was a further indication that the outlet was functioning currently and was adequate for normal conditions.
· It was suggested that additional reservoir capacity could be provided to cope with high levels of rainfall. In response it was stated that for the instances of flooding just experienced this solution was inappropriate as it was caused by surface water. Other mitigation measures, including modifications to properties, would be considered nevertheless.
· Comments were made that when work carried out to the bridge and culvert on Bean Leach Road in the past 10 years a stone wall had been removed and that the most recent flooding may have been eased had the wall been in place as it may have diverted water away from houses. A commitment was given to clarify why the wall had been removed.
· A request was made for agencies to investigate the extent of flooding on Teal Close.
· Clarification was sought on the levels of rainfall and whether there had been any comparison between recent rainfall and historic levels. In response it was commented that records indicated that there were 1 in 20 year flood events in 2009 and 2004. Caution was urged in relation to data as methodologies had changed over time making comparisons difficult. The data could also not account for particular conditions in any given location at any specific time.
· A question was asked about whether the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road scheme works may have contributed to the flooding. The Chair confirmed that the Stepping Hill Area Committee had specifically asked about drainage works for the scheme at a meeting in March when discussion the Flood Risk Management Strategy and been assured that drainage had been considered in the development of the scheme. In response, Council officers stated that the contractors had been contacted to investigate whether this may have been the case, but that early indications were that it was not related as the flooding in Offerton, High Lane and Hazel Grove was at a higher elevation than the scheme works. The scheme had been through extensive consultation with relevant agencies, including specifically about drainage. The contribution, if any, of the road scheme to the flooding would be considered as part of the Independent Review. Representatives of the Environment Agency confirmed that the organisation had been involved in the planning for the road scheme, and acknowledged that many of the measures would not yet be in place given the road was not complete. However, it was stated that although intuitively the scheme may seem to have contributed to the flooding, it was highly unlikely and the primary cause was in all probability due to the intensity of rainfall over a short period.
· Comments were made that the number of sandbags provided was inadequate given the severity of the flooding, and that residents themselves were diverting traffic away from the flooding on 8 June.
· Clarification was sought on comments made by UU employees in the area in relation to a blockage in the wider sewer network near the Rising Sun Public House in Hazel Grove. In response it was confirmed that a private culvert near Hazel Grove Golf Club had caused localised flooding in that area as it was of insufficient size to cope with the water volume, but this was not connected to the road scheme.
· Confirmation was sought on what actions UU had taken between the 8 June and 11 June flooding in light of comments made by engineers in the area that no work was undertaken in relation to the Poise Brook. In response it was stated that it was inaccurate to state that UU had not undertaken works as they had inspected and cleansed the network, and carried out surfacing cleaning. UU had no responsibility for the Poise Brook and would therefore not have undertaken any work to it.
· Concerns were expressed that the flooding may recur and clarification was sought on what actions would be taken in the future. In response, a representative of UU confirmed that the investigations found the system was flowing and there were no impediments. UU was working with partners to investigate possible additional measures, but no guarantee could be provided that there would be no recurrence. Any further measures would need to be a cost effective use of resources for all partners.
· Concerns were expressed that action to mitigate future flooding was not being given sufficient priority. In response, a representative of EA stated that work was underway to assess and prioritise work to repair any defects in the river network, such as culverts and drain covers that might cause or exacerbate flooding. A recovery plan would be developed following a flood and implemented within an appropriate timeframe.
· A question was asked about whether the drainage system was fit for purpose in light of climate change and increasing frequency of severe rainfall. In response, a representative of UU suggested that drainage requirements needed to be able to cope with 1 in 30 year events, and no system would be able to accommodate the 1 in 160 year event that had occurred. Practically there was insufficient depth beneath street level to provide such drainage, nor the resources.
· Clarification was sought on how mitigation measures would be funded. In response it was stated that where UU was the responsible agency, it would fund measures to protect property, such as flood doors, modified air bricks etc. Where the causes of flooding were more complex, UU were committed to work with partners to contribute to any measures deemed appropriate.
· A question was asked about whether the amount of payment being offered by UU could be challenged. In response it was stated that what was being offered was a discretionary payment that UU were under no legal obligation to provide, and that it was not intended as compensation but to assist residents. If a bill payer contacted UU to confirm when their property was unoccupied due to flood damage and renovation then consideration would be given to providing rebates for this period.
· Various concerns were raised about specific drains and locations, such as Shearwater Drive, Kingfisher Drive, Bean Leach Road. It was commented that if details were provided they would be investigated to determine if any action could be taken.
Councillors asked about assistance the Council could offer to residents in making insurance claims and other practical matters. In response it was stated that residents could approach the Stockport Local Assistance Scheme for help with financial matters. The Furniture Station could also provide low cost furniture.
Councillors also queried what assistance could be offered to those without insurance. In response, the Borough Treasurer offered sympathy to anyone in this predicament, but emphasised that the Council could not use public resources to underwrite residents or homeowners without insurance.
Members of the public and councillors paid tribute to Fire & Rescue Services for their assistance to residents during the flooding.
Thanks were also given to United Utilities operatives who were on site during this period
RESOLVED – (1) That the representatives of the Council, Environment Agency and United Utilities be thanked for their attendance and contribution.
(2) That further details of assistance to residents be circulated as soon as they were available.