Category Archives: Flooding

Canvey Island development Free for All! Environment Agency weak approach encourages Castle Point Council’s laissez-faire attitude to Planning!

Are you sitting Comfortably?

Then I’ll begin –

“The (Canvey Island) application site is located within Flood Zone 3a, which has a high probability of flooding. Looking at the whole of Castle Point District it would seem that there are areas within Flood Zone 1 that could accommodate this form of development.

However, given that the only areas of Flood Zone 1 in the district are on the “mainland” part, such an approach would direct all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh.

Canvey is a self-contained community with its own housing needs and directing all new development towards Benfleet and Hadleigh could have an adverse impact on Canvey socially and economically.

Furthermore, a need for housing on Canvey cannot be met by building around Benfleet and Hadleigh due to other constraints such as the Green Belt.”

So says the cpbc Planning Officer as the latest attempt to convince residents, councillors and, no doubt the Planning Inspectorate, that castle point council’s approach to the application of the Flood Risk Sequential Test is morally sound!

July 2014photo3

Going back just 10 years things were different and the Environment Agency held a more cautious and responsible stance:-

Extract from the Echo June 2008
“DEVELOPERS seeking to build new homes on Canvey are being forced to think again because of growing fears about flooding.
The Environment Agency is resolutely pursuing its policy of recommending refusal of plans to build new homes on the island because Canvey is below sea level and therefore on a flood plain.

Castle Point Council is taking those recommendations to heart and rejecting applications for new homes, leaving some developers in limbo.
The council has pledged to continue upholding the Environment Agency’s recommendations until the results of a Government-initiated inquiry into flood plains publishes its findings.

The Government appointed Sir Michael Pitt to carry out the study, following catastrophic floods in Hull after heavy rainfall in June and July last year. It is likely the final report expected, this summer, will recommend tighter restrictions.

Ray Howard, Castle Point and Essex county councillor, said local authorities were reluctant to ignore the Environment Agency’s advice, while they are waiting for the results of the Pitt Report.
Mr Howard has received many letters from people struggling to build on Canvey.
He said: “It’s a big problem that needs to be looked at. We can’t have a blanket ban for building here.
“I believe Canvey is unique, as it has the best flood walls and flood water drainage system in the country.

“The flood plain rules should be relaxed for us.”

Last week localised flooding on the island, caused by heavy rainfall, affected hundreds of residents on the island.

But Mr Howard is convinced it is well protected against severe flooding from the Thames Estuary.
A total of £34 million was spent rebuilding Canvey’s sea walls in the 1970s and 1980s.
A further £6 million was spent last year on 14 giant pumps, spread around the island to force water back into the sea if the walls are ever breached.
Mr Howard said: “The reason Canvey is always considered high-risk is because of the 1953 flood.
“But back then the only sea defences were soil walls, built by the original Dutch settlers.”
The 1953 Canvey flood claimed the lives of 58 people.

Despite Mr Howard’s insistence that Canvey is well protected, the Environment Agency refused to budge from its policy of objecting to all new homes on flood plains.
Spokeswoman Rita Penman insisted the Environment Agency could not relax its planning guidelines for Canvey,

She said: “Although Canvey is well defended, the current understanding across the country is that if there are other areas not on the flood plains, they should be developed first.

“This is in the interests of everyone’s safety. We are therefore unable to recommend approval for any new developments on Canvey at the present time.”

Even if the Government report clears the way for new homes on flood plains, insurers are warning hundreds of thousands of homes built in high-risk areas may not qualify for insurance.

Nick Starling, the Association of British Insurers’ director of general insurance and health, said: “Poor planning decisions will lead to more homes becoming unsaleable, uninsurable and uninhabitable”

Disappointing then, that following the Summer Flooding of 2014 the cpbc chief executive officer should point out that the Canvey Island drainage system – was never intended to be able to cope with Tidal Flooding of the Island!

But of course the findings of the cpbc Scrutiny Committee’s meetings to discuss the flooding and its consequences, during which the ceo made the admittance, has never been published, despite the flood occuring 4 years past!

To enforce the Association of British Insurers position, above, the Flood Re scheme to guarantee affordable house insurance against flooding does not cover houses built since January 2009.

Has Caveat emptor, been anymore appropriate?

I have been reminded by a sceptical mainlander that, “IT IS HARD TO FOOL PEOPLE, BUT IT’S EVEN HARDER TO CONVINCE PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE BEEN FOOLED.”

The short EA video below may give you some insight as to the sensibility of those that propose and support the over development of Canvey Island and whether the drainage system could ever be made capable of alleviating Flood Risk!

The EA expert’s explanation of how the drainage System is designed to work, appears to be far different to the practical experiences during 2013 and 2014 and the isolated Flooding incidents during other periods!

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Canvey Island, Flooding, Over-Development, Local Plan, draft NPPF Consultation and the National Flood Forum. Unrest Grows!

Canvey Island, is synonymous with Flooding.

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Despite the tragedy of 1953, the major Surface water Flooding of 2014 and other similar events, Canvey is cynically treated as a “Special Case”. This is so that Housing Development, Park Home expansions can continue unabated.

These new homes are sold to unsuspecting buyers, with little reference as to the likely problems in obtaining House Insurance against Flooding on New Builds, since January 2009.

All so that the expectations of a New Local Plan are fulfilled.

The Castle Point Council Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, undertaken by Scot Wilson to comply with the demands of the failed Core Strategy in 2010, identified Canvey Island being “At Risk” from Flooding!

Consequently a Reason had to be “invented” so as to permit all, from Small to Large site Housing Development on Canvey. CPBC’s officers, at the behest of certain councillors, cosied up to the Environment Agency and the Strategic Flood Risk assessment was Distorted to permit continued over development!

Since then no developments are Rejected in principle by cpbc on Flood Risk grounds. CPBC claim that for development to serve, and the continued growth of Canvey Island, the development MUST be ON Canvey Island. As though Castle Point is a massive Borough divided by language barriers and with miles of sea between us and the mainland!

The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has recently been consulted upon. We, the Canvey Green Belt Campaign Group, have monitored the submissions, especially where Flood Risk is concerned.

We found that the group known as the National Flood Forum have submitted comments that identified issues most relevant to Canvey Island.

And that if our local authority “Ruling Party” and our new leader, are unwilling to truly represent Canvey Island Residents, at least the National Flood Forum have quite capably stated OUR Position

We make no apologies for this being a long read, but we ask you to at the very least skim through it and allow the relevant issues trigger something in your mind, if you were affected in 1953, 2013, 2014 or have been concerned or affected by Flooding at any stage.

The NPPF Consultation has closed, however we have failed to discover a published response to the consultation from Castle Point Borough Council, perhaps one of our councillors may be able to direct us to the document, if it exists.

The National Flood Forum’s submission the draft NPPF consultation, with highlighted passages of some significance to Canvey residents, reads:

The National Flood Forum is a national charity dedicated to supporting and representing communities and individuals at risk of flooding. We do this by:
1. Supporting people to prepare for flooding
2. Helping people to recover their lives if they have been flooded
3. Working with government and agencies to ensure that they develop a community perspective when addressing flooding issues

As part of the flooded community, the National Flood Forum is a charity that supports communities to tackle the things that matter to them; creating hope and reducing the fear of flooding; helping people to work together to reduce flood exposure and its impacts, both physical and emotional. Over 300 flood groups are affiliated to the National Flood Forum and this response has been developed from their many comments.

The National Flood Forum regularly deals with a range of scenarios:
1. New developments that have flooded or which are likely to flood because, for example, SuDS measures are at capacity under normal weather conditions, or sites have been built on areas that are waterlogged
2. Developments which have apparently caused flooding elsewhere, or are likely to
3. Planning applications and decisions that do not make use of local knowledge of flood risk issues
4. Development planning that does not make use of local knowledge

The result is that people become extremely fearful of the future, distrustful of those in authority. This can appear as either apathy or combative behaviour.
“We had a housing estate built up in Eyam and they concreted over a large natural drainage point. And that’s in the Peak Park which is supposedly highly regulated. It’s a shambles. If you have a lot of money you can do what you want.”

Caterham Flood Action Group are also angry:
Hey “To briefly explain, our community has been blighted by surface water flooding for over twenty years, development has continued, responsibilities have been fractured, affecting maintenance (tantamount to neglect) of the delicate drainage infrastructure leaving residents in fear of precipitation.

On the 7th June 2016, after campaigning and complaining for almost two decades, the great storm wreaked havoc, destroying homes, devastating families, trapping our vulnerable and elderly neighbours for hours without power, as rivers of raw sewage flowed into our homes, through the streets of Surrey across the administrative border into a London Borough (contrary to the draft London plan, Policy Si12 B, which states ‘Boroughs should co-operate and jointly address cross-boundary flood risk issues including with authorities outside London’).

The CFAG must question if measures really are in place to guarantee that councils on the edge of the London Basin are considering the quality and capacity of the infrastructure ‘downstream’.

Paragraphs 154 – 163 of the Draft NPPF are an improvement on previous versions. But Caterham Flood Action Group, and others, do not believe that the Draft NPPF addresses their concerns that people will be put at risk of flooding.

In particular, policies and guidelines need to be much more ambitious if we are to create places that people will want to live in, that are adaptive to the future (such as being able to absorb more development) and where people feel safe.

Policies need to be translated in to action and many of the concerns from Flood Action Groups are that even the existing policies are being ridden over roughshod, with no recourse for affected communities.

The National Flood Forum strongly refutes the notion that flood risk can be outweighed by the economic benefits to the community and does not reflect the absolute misery flooding problems can cause to those involved.

The current wording in the draft NPPF virtually establishes that flooding is acceptable and provides opportunities for those who wish to find loopholes to do so. If development impacts even on a handful of households/properties, then it’s not a benefit to the community. For example, words such as “safe” in paragraph 154 are ambiguous. Whilst no one can ever be without flood risk, the wording here and in wider guidance needs to reflect community perspectives on safety, risk and what it means to feel resilient.

Data from the Association of British Insurers shows that 50% of insurance claims for properties flooded during the winter of 2015/16 were from areas that had not been identified by the public or private sectors as being at risk of flooding. In previous years the figure was sometimes higher (80% in 2007) and never lower, indicating that our understanding of flood risk and the flood risk maps available only cover a proportion of the risk. Surface water, groundwater and combined risks in particular are poorly understood.

For these two reasons greater stress should be placed in the NPPF on the rigour that is required to assess flood risk through all forms of Food Risk Assessments.

The biggest complaint from Flood Action Groups across England is that people’s local knowledge about their area is ignored, resulting in poor decisions about their future. People frequently have knowledge about their local area that professionals do not; details about previous flooding incidents, underground drainage, old drainage systems, etc. Modellers will frequently say that their modelling work simply produces useful tools and does not represent the real world exactly.

It will often lack local information to put in to the model and the parameters through which the model works will have limitations on the accuracy of what results. However, in the planning system models are often regarded as the absolute truth in the decision-making process and other evidence ignored. Communities regularly complain that this is the case. This can include information about local drainage patterns and historic flooding incidents through to the routes of major flow channels, groundwater levels and sea level rise. Therefore, development plans and planning applications should demonstrate how they have listened to local voices and how those views have been taken in to account in developing proposals. In particular they should demonstrate how triangulation has occurred between modelling, local knowledge and other forms of evidence to arrive at the most reasonable answers.

Paragraph 156) demonstrates an improved level of ambition, but not significant enough if we are to tackle flood risk seriously. The example from Shipston in Warwickshre below illustrates the point:
“The NPPF requires new developments to achieve ‘flood neutrality’ as a minimum i.e. that water run off post development should be no worse than the pre-developed site.
We work with our Town Council and the developers in negotiating better than flood neutrality at or before the planning stage and have had some success in getting their drainage strategies to achieve betterment – in most cases within the range of 25/40%.
With modern SUDS systems, their creative application and a willingness to meet improved objectives this is perfectly achievable at relatively low, if any, ‘on cost’ and of course the whole concept of betterment is essential with the increasing pressures brought about by adverse climate change trends and as a community support programme by developers.

We are concerned that the present policy is simply not ambitious enough and consider that a policy of betterment should replace the current ’neutrality’ policy.
Further, whatever the policy, specific local ground and geological conditions should be taken account of when determining the adequacy of drainage strategies by the LPA’s.
In our area Warwickshire clay is the predominant soil type and is almost completely impermeable so a literal ‘greenfield’ site in this area will already have a pre-existing high level of surface water runoff.

Further, should such ‘greenfield’ site have been used for grazing it will be highly compacted making the situation even worse.
Even further, should the site be sloping down to other developed areas great care needs to be taken to design a drainage strategy that absolutely reduces run off compared with the pre-existing situation.

Finally, the requirement that developments of less than 10 dwellings do not need LLFA oversight in giving guidance to the LPA (if different) should be reduced as it seems clear that developments of 9 or less are deliberately introduced perhaps to circumvent properly qualified scrutiny.
At present, it appears that the LPA’s simply have to check that a drainage strategy meets the NPPF guidelines which, in the circumstances described above, would likely be completely inadequate.

Once new developments are built to inadequate drainage standards in their specific local context there is no going back so this consultation is a once off opportunity to address the issue and build better resilience for the future into such developments.”

Para 158 a) contains an assertion that where there is no other option it is acceptable for a development to take precedence over people’s lives, however traumatic the outcomes might be. This is simply not acceptable and should be deleted. Developments that put people or their neighbours at a significant risk of them being flooded should not be built, whatever the pressure for new housing. Areas in Flood Zone 3, where there is significant groundwater (such as permanently within 150 cm of the surface) or significant drainage limitations should not be built on.

Where there are wider societal benefits identified, the risks of any new development should be transparent, so that businesses, infrastructure providers can make judgements about the level of risk that they are prepared to accept.

Para 160 – footnote 41. The site-specific flood risk assessment should triangulate modelling, local knowledge and other evidence. The assessment should proactively seek out local knowledge and demonstrate how this is used to develop an overall assessment. Guidance should be updated.

A common failing of current developments is that drainage plans are developed after the site layout has been determined. Retrofitting a drainage plan to a site can be difficult and lead to inferior results. Drainage plans should be submitted for all outline planning applications and should detail measures to manage water during the construction phase. The example from Charlton Flood Action Group, Worcestershire below illustrates the point.

“The Plan [South Worcestershire Development Plan] does not make any reference to the Environment Agency designated “Rapid Response Catchments” of which the Merry Brook is a very High risk one.
To minimise future flood risk in these particular vulnerable catchments we believe the plan should make reference to these Catchments and further that when any development/planning application is being agreed in these catchments that the conditions of planning should require that:
• Any flood prevention schemes should be put in place prior to the development of houses and other infrastructure being commenced. (During the last few years the development of the housing estate at Hampton, Evesham was commenced with top soil being stripped off the land. Those living in Charlton noticed that the water levels in the Merry brook increased far more quickly due to water running draining off the site. It was only when we started complaining that thought was given to installing the retention ponds and there was then a further delay until weather conditions were suitable).
• That in these catchment areas the water run off levels should be half the normal levels allowed. This should be achieved either by reducing water run-off levels or where this is not possible by the developers installing recommended schemes suggested by the Environment Agency – such as ponding on water courses.
• That all suggestions recommended by the Environment Agency should be installed. (At the Hampton development the Environment Agency had suggested that some ponding take place on the Merry Brook to help reduce water flows. This suggestion was totally ignored).
• That on small / single developments where planning consent is being sought that water run-off be considered and reduced to a minimum. Should there be a small water course running through the site then ponding/other means to reduce the flow should be installed.
• That any work on Highways in Rapid response catchment areas should also involve the installation of measures to reduce the flow of water into water courses.”

161 a) It is difficult to imagine situations where “overriding interest” applies. This clause should be removed, otherwise it will be used to push through inappropriate developments. The overriding concern must be for the wellbeing of people.

161 e) There is some confusion amongst Risk Management Authorities as to which organisation should comment on this aspect of planning applications. This needs clarification
Note 42 does not adequately cover the risks posed by surface water, ground water and combined sources. With at least 50% of flooding incidents involving surface water, this aspect needs particular attention to ensure that people are kept safe, whereas the focus of attention in the guidance is on fluvial flooding because that is where the better evidence base is. Surface and groundwater risks are often highly localised, but the trauma that is caused can be significant because often there is no scheme available that meets benefit cost criteria for investment. Rapid response catchments pose a particular risk. The result is that people continue to suffer without the prospect of ever escaping from the threat. In addition, the National Flood Forum’s experience is that people are increasingly finding it difficult to sell their home, restricting their ability to change employment, move closer to family, etc. Therefore Note 42 should explicitly refer to areas of high surface water and ground water risk, combined sources of flooding and rapid response catchments. The quote from the Food Action Group in South Woodford Ferrer, Essex, illustrates the point:
“We are currently doing our best as a voluntary group to try to alleviate a recurring fluvial/sewage flood in our local area. We are now in 2018 and still do not appear to be able to assist the residents of our town to have a better quality of life. Funding issues and OFWAT regulations leave local residents baffled as to what they can do to resolve this horrendous flood and sewage discharge situation. These flooding events appear to be occurring every 2 years (2012-2014-2016) ….surely this can’t be right? We do understand that funding is a problem but by working together we should be able to come up with a solution for these poor people living with the prospect of a significant flood every time there is a heavy rain fall.”

An area may be in Flood Risk zone 1 but at very high risk from surface water. However, reference to Flood Zone 1 will frequently allow developers to push through schemes in very high surface water risk. The point is well made by Caterham Flood Action Group:
“The Draft NPPF supports small sites being identified, essentially promoting ‘garden grabbing’, to reiterate we’re aware of the need for homes BUT in a surface water flood risk areas, we can confirm this has had devastating results over the decades, hence the need for SuDs in ALL development and retrofitting (refer to 1.2). YET 71) resists ‘inappropriate development in residential gardens, where development would cause harm’… But as we’re technically in a ‘flood zone 1’, on paper there’s NO risk, therefore development is be permitted (refer to 3.3), hence the desperate need to ensure policy guidance is ‘joined up’”

163 Minimal operational standards for Sustainable Urban Drainage systems should go beyond normal and projected normal rainfall events, with or without taking account of climate change projections. Whilst systems are unlikely to cater for every eventuality, they should be designed to cater for abnormal events, occasions where soil moisture levels are full and a series of events over a short period of time.
In some areas SuDS schemes will be inappropriate due to high water tables or permanently waterlogged soils. It may be possible to pump dry sites, but this has carbon emission issues and pumps failure does happen. In these cases, it is especially important to have a full and detailed drainage plan.
Developments currently have a right to connect to sewerage and drainage infrastructure. The National Flood Forum experience is that this may place other people at higher risk of flooding and we deal with people whose homes may not have flooded for 40-50 years, but who suddenly find that they flood every couple of years or more frequently with sewage once a development takes place. Sewerage and drainage undertakings must have the ability to refuse to connect to new developments where appropriate infrastructure is not currently in place.

Many of the issues and concerns that people in communities have relate to the skillsets and resources in drainage and flood risk management in local authorities, particularly planning authorities. These are hugely variable. It is important that Lead Local Flood Authority and Planning authorities have a qualified flood risk managers and drainage engineers to support the planning development and control process. In many cases the lack of the skills to critically examine proposals and applications has led to a failure to spot problems or allowed poor design. Whilst not a consideration for the NPPF, it is a major component of the many failures to see it applied appropriately.

Enforcement is a concern for many communities. Where there is unauthorised development or where there are planning conditions, it is a common experience that these are not enforced effectively, leading to increased flood risk for occupants and/or neighbours. The quote below from a flood group in Essex illustrates the problem:
“As regards, unauthorised development, the local authority (XXX District Council) does not seem to have adequate staff to deal with this by planning enforcement.”
Communities have sometimes worked with developers to bring forward better designs, using their local knowledge. The willingness of developers to engage meaningfully with communities has been very variable, with markedly different approaches even within the same settlement. There should be an expectation in the NPPF for developers to work with communities meaningfully to develop better designs delivering multiple benefits, rather than just running a consultation.

Canvey Island Sea Wall Erosion, should be the Real Focus of CPBC’s Attention. Residents again being kept in the Dark?

The condition of the Canvey Sea Wall, or Sea Defence system, is causing serious concern, despite the lack of news or information.

The cause, which should not be too surprising, is currently under investigation.

Further inland on Canvey a large Green Belt site, identified as being deliverable and developable by Castle Point borough council, was the subject of a pre-development Ground Investigation Report, probably the first, and most thorough investigations of its type on Canvey Island, to be made public via the cpbc planning portal.

The Ground Investigation Report indicated what should be serious concerns to the cpbc development committee and planning officers, should they refer to it and give it the respect it warrants.

We suspect, however, committee members are unaware of its existence!

Despite this site being a full Kilometre from the Estuary, the effects of tidal water which surrounds Canvey Island have been found!

The Ground Investigation Report was carried out to consider what Risk the subsoil and water table might have on development structures, such as Housing.

It found;

Geotechnical Risks*
Poor bearing capacities of the low strength / loose soils;
Aggressive ground and groundwater conditions
Shallow groundwater (possibly under tidal influence)

The High Water table found on Canvey Island is well known to residents, however what was surprising is that this water consisted of a level of saline, or sea water, content!

In effect our Sea Defence is incapable of stopping Tidal Water from penetrating UNDER the sea wall.

If these influences can be found 1 kilometre from the sea wall, how much more damaging are they to the Sea Defence itself?

The constant changes via the ground water saturation and drying processes, and the less than stable subsoil beneath the Sea Defence foundations will over time, challenge the longevity of the structure. Whilst the effects of the Tide itself is more obvious!

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The effects of the more frequent passing of larger and larger transport vessels along the Thames, requires monitoring, as does the constant dredging.

As recently as September 2017 we were reassured that these Sea Defences are “well maintained”, and whilst these images probably indicate superficial damage we have learnt that the Environment Agency have identified some areas of the Sea Defence causing them serious concerns!

The Environment Agency are known to have carried out surveying inspection works and are considering what steps are required to maintain the integrity of the Canvey Island Sea Defence.

*Geotechnical engineering is the branch of civil engineering concerned with the engineering behaviour of earth materials

Canvey Island’s “flood” of Good News stories!

Never let it be said that the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group dwell on “poor us” missives as we acknowledge, the flood of Canvey Island  “Good News Stories,” being brought to our attention across social media of late. We are more than happy to contribute and post the following Hoorahs!

Those residents troubled should we see a Rain Storm in future similar to those of 2013 and 2014 can rest assured.

They will know that their Homes now have access to the FLOOD Re insurance scheme. This scheme insures they will be able to get competitive House Insurance from practically the whole insurance market.

Provided their homes were built prior to 2009!

In 2015 Castle Point Council assembled a high profile delegation and attended Parliament seeking £24,500,000 so as to upgrade the Canvey Island drainage system and to prevent any further flooding of Canvey Homes.

We have no further update on the request by Parliament to provide breakdown figures of exactly what the money is required for.

We also must pay tribute to the tireless and determined efforts that MAP, the Multi Agency Partnership, of the Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Essex County Council, Castle Point Council and Essex Highways are making to keep our Island Homes dry and Residents safe in the event of a future storm capable of bringing Surface Water Flooding.

It can ONLY, therefore be a short matter of time before scheduled routine maintenance of the Hole Haven Sluice is carried out.

Sluice 4Sluice 3Sluice 2

Sluice 1

 

Canvey Island Residents left Bamboozled by Flood Protection Funding Maze!

The flooding of Canvey Island during the summers of 2013 and 2014 and the ongoing concerns of a repeat event have been the subject of recent local news reports and social media posts.

A recent visit was carried out by the Government under Secretary of State for the Environment, Thérèse Coffey MP to meet a delegation of CPBC councillors and officers and representatives of the multi agency partnership to view the work carried out so far in response to the 2014 flooding.

Press reports suggested that time was spent observing the achievements rather than viewing areas of the Island’s drainage scheme that remained to be upgraded.

For instance, Essex Highways have accounted for a promised routine improvement of Canvey’s road gully maintenance, whereas in fact certain roads gullies on the Island have not received any cleansing for a number of years! And yet apparently huge sums of central funding has been claimed by ECC, whilst routine work is neglected.

Essex Highways claim, “that (they) have shown its commitment by investing more than £1 million of additional funding to help tackle localised problems such as blocked gullies”, appears to have gone unchallenged by cpbc representatives, whilst they should be fully aware that regular routine maintenance is not carried out, except perhaps in those areas that were previously reported flooded.

The implication in this case being, prevention is not better than cure!

It cannot be denied that keeping the profile high on the amount of work needed to upgrade Canvey’s drainage system is a very good thing, but the release of central funding must be used on tangible works.

Canvey residents, whose properties suffered from the flooding during 2014 have been urged to make a claim for a grant towards installing Flood Prevention measures.

This encouragement to claim by council officials, appears to indicate a concession that future flood events may well occur, despite the work carried out so far, or that the maintenance programme and upgrading of the drainage system, reliant on the £24,000,000 grant from Government, may well not be forthcoming.

However, the ease of residents seeking access to funding for the installation of flood prevention measures appears not so easy to locate, despite the encouragement from local representatives.

A visit to our local authority’s website seeking residents funding reveals only;

Castle Point Council

“Council Tax Discount for properties affected by flooding on 20th July 2014. Deadline Extended to 30.11.2014”

Using a little initiative a search for and read of the famous 6 Point Plan reveals a lead;

“Following detailed investigations, the group envisages this scheme benefiting around 15,000 high risk properties – or around 40,000 residents – on the Island. It is estimated that these measures will require an additional £500,000 of allocated funding to support the PLP package, which was introduced in September of this year. This scheme will continue to be run and managed by Essex County Council in their role as Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA).”

The impliction being all properties on Canvey are subject to some level of surface water flood risk.

This led us to then log onto the ECC website where upon, using a couple of search words the following was discovered, an application area for qualifying residents of the whole  of Essex, not just Canvey Island, to claim for flood prevention measures. Disappointingly the situation is not as rosy as some, having suffered flooding, may have wished;

Essex County Council

“Please note: Due to the high number of applications, we’re currently unable to confirm if your application will be successful.

We will notify you as soon as the status of your application changes.”

It is a concern that an element of transparency regarding whether some of this may be old or new money being granted and whether grants are being used in central budgets, as we know of the multi agency partnership Essex Highways for one, are over stating their commitment!

The Castle Point Conservatives post on social media from the MPs and delegates meeting reads;

Thérèse Coffey MP, the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for the Environment, visited Castle Point at the request of local MP Rebecca Harris. The Minister was invited to see the joint work that Essex County Council, Anglian Water, the Environment Agency and Castle Point Borough Council have undertaken to reduce the risk of future flooding and hear what progress has been made on the Six Point Plan Proposal.

Canvey Island was especially badly flooded in the summers of 2013 and 2014 and in the aftermath of the flooding a Multi-Agency Partnership (MAP) was formed between Essex County Council, Anglian Water, The Environment Agency and Castle Point Borough Council to prevent future flooding. The MAP created a 6 Point Plan setting out actions that the agencies could undertake to increase resilience to surface water flooding. The Plan includes: property level flood protection; dredging Canvey Lake; Increasing capacity of the drainage infrastructure by building an Integrated Urban Drainage Model for Canvey; create the Canvey Resilient Communities Programme; development of innovative flood management technologies and investment in green surface water storage.

During the visit the Environment Agency’s Eastern Region Deputy Director, Charles Beardall, and Anglian Water’s Head of Flood Risk Management, Jonathan Glerum, explained to the Minister the work done so far on the Integrated Urban Drainage model and the significant investment made into the various pumping stations around the Island and on the Benfleet Creek Barrier.

The Minister also visited Canvey Lake where Castle Point Borough Council’s CEO, David Marchant, and Essex County Council’s Head of Environment and Flood Management, John Meehan, updated the Minister on the progress made on the 6 Point Plan to date. They also touched on future challenges facing the MAP.

Following the visit, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey MP said “Protecting people from flooding is an absolute priority, which is why we are spending more than £1 million to refurbish floodgates and on work investigating new local defences on Canvey Island.

“I was delighted to see first-hand what’s being done on the ground to better protect the community and will continue to follow the work with interest.”

Commenting, Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris said “I would like to thank the Minister for taking the time out of her busy schedule to visit Castle Point. We have made real progress to ensure that residents don’t suffer the terrible flooding of 2014 again and I am pleased that the Minister had the chance to see the progress first hand. There is still however more to do and I will be making sure that the County Council, Borough Council, Anglian Water and Environment Agency continue to work well together.

Cllr Ian Grundy, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, said “Essex County Council is proud to be part of the Multi-Agency Task Group which works to reduce the flood risk in Canvey. Friday’s visit from MP Thérèse Coffey offered a welcome opportunity to increase awareness of the key challenges we all face and how we are working collaboratively to find solutions.

“Since the task group was formed in 2014/15, Essex Highways has shown its commitment by investing more than £1 million of additional funding to help tackle localised problems such as blocked gullies and defective pipework in Canvey. We are also investing a further £500,000 over the next two years to address broader drainage issues. Our colleagues in Flood Management have invested £600,000 and will have protected 100 properties as part of their Property Protection scheme and have done numerous floods studies to target our future investments

“Essex Highways and the Flood Management team pride themselves on being innovative in their approach to deliver more, for less, for the taxpayer. We will continue to be a keen contributor to the work of the Multi-Agency Task Group, with a focus on delivering greener, more sustainable solutions to help solve these issues.” “

Jonathan Glerum, Anglian Water’s Head of Flood Risk Management, said “We were delighted to welcome the Minister to Canvey and show her the great partnership work that has been delivered. The approach to multi-agency working that has been developed on Canvey is a game changer and has delivered significant investment in flood mitigation on the island.”

“Anglian Water has invested over £2million on improvements to our drainage network on the Island and is committed to continued working with partners, and Government, as we look to develop and deliver innovation solutions to flood risk management for Canvey.”

Environment Agency’s Eastern Region Deputy Director, Charles Beardall, said “The day was a great opportunity to highlight the scale of the Environment Agency’s investment on Canvey, from our ongoing maintenance work to significant improvements to the protection of properties from main river flooding. It also gave us a chance to showcase our work with partner organisations as they look at future options to reduce surface water flood risk.”

Castle Point Borough CEO, David Marchant, said “All of the agencies involved were able to demonstrate to the Minister how much progress they have made since the disastrous flooding of 2013/14. Working together we have invested or plan to invest nearly £6m in accordance with the Six Point Plan to ensure the existing network operates as effectively as possible. However there is still more to do but the unique nature of the drainage system means that innovation in design is necessary particularly when the essential balance between the environment and critical drainage infrastructure on Canvey Lake has to be maintained.”

Canvey Councillor Ray Howard MBE, Castle Point Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Waste and Flooding, said ‘It was very encouraging to have a Minister of the Crown visit Canvey Island. The Minister showed a great interest in our previous flooding problems and assured us that her department would do all they could to assist in future flooding matters’.

One thing appears absolutely clear is that despite some claims to the contrary, the possibility of a repeat of the devastating events is now accepted by many agency representatives!

Hypocrisy, the Use of Substitutes, a Deciding Vote and a Divided Borough? Sequentially Unsound!

It appeared that what can only be described as a level of Hypocrisy was displayed by certain Castle Point Development Committee members towards a view suggested by the opposition group at the 5th September’s meeting!

The suggestion appeared that Canvey was, put simplistically, being targeted for development so as to protect the mainland areas. It was expressed that Canvey should not be portrayed as an individual area, rather than an equal part of the whole Borough of Castle Point.

However the whole basis of the Flood Risk Sequential Test, as interpreted by Castle Point Council, is to treat Canvey Island in isolation!

“it is considered that continued development is necessary in order that the settlement of Canvey can continue to thrive economically and socially.”

” Canvey needs continued development if it is to continue to thrive economically. A lack of housebuilding on the island could mean that the island stagnates in economic terms which is likely to affect opportunities for employment. “

Indeed the Thorney Bay proposal for 600+ dwellings  was subject to a CPBC Planning Policy statement stating that “the site was identified as having the potential to contribute towards the 5 Year Housing Supply (of the Borough)”!

Regardless of the application being considered, whether for a single unit or a proposal for over 600 dwellings on Canvey Island, it is fairly clear that using this interpretation of the Sequential Test to support development proposals, there is no likelihood of any planning proposal Failing the Test!

It is a convenient and flimsy argument to accuse Islanders of focussing on cpbc’s apparent approach to Canvey development, whilst the Sequential Test is used to do precisely that!

It should be of concern, that since Canvey land was designated for the use of Housing in the 1998 Local Plan, and that since the Sequential Test approach towards its application on Canvey development proposals was adopted by CPBC in 2007, these events have occurred and these Reports have been published;

  • The Pitt Review-Learning Lessons from the 2007 floods. (Published 2008) !!!
  • The CPBC Strategic Flood Risk Assessment published in 2010. (In itself due an Update.)
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2013.
  • Surface Water Flooding has occurred on Canvey Island during 2014.
  • Government Office for Science – Canvey Island Section 19 Report
  • The requested Drainage Improvement / Upgrade funding has not materialised.
  • We learned that the land on Canvey Island has a High Water Table, subject to influence by the Tidal Water encroaching Under the Sea Defences. (Land East of Canvey Road document).
  • The Integrated Urban Drainage Study was published, which challenged the credibility of the CPBC Surface Water Management Plan published 2012.

Quite clearly the Castle Point Council approach to the application of the Sequential Test on Canvey Island in isolation, is Obsolete and Unjustified!

Attenuation Tanks were discussed as a means of a suitable drainage system. Had the committee not considered that Canvey has a High Water Table, now known to be subject to Tidal influence? In this case the Tank would be sunk into the application site property, how efficient would this system of drainage be?

Photo Police helicopter 2014

The focus of the drainage system needs to be to prevent off-site flooding of neighbouring property and land. Without going through the exercise of producing a Practical Model on Canvey island and monitoring over an extended period councillors should not be in a position to simply go by unsubstantiated opinion in their decision making!

Whilst the protection of Green Belt, which is admirable, is at the forefront of councillors minds, it must be borne in mind that Paragraph 14 of the national Planning Policy Framework contains Footnote 9, which indicates;

specific policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.9

those policies relating to sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives (see paragraph 119) and/or designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest; land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coast or within a National Park (or the Broads Authority); designated heritage assets; and locations at risk of flooding or coastal erosion.

Whilst this specifically relates to Plan making, it is clear that, if the concern is present amongst decision makers development in a Flood Zone and in a Critical Drainage Area, in which Canvey Island falls into both categories, caution should be the operative position to adopt.

Residents suffering the Canvey Island Flooding of 2013 and 2014 may well feel appalled at the rigid Rejection of development applications on Green Belt, whilst a less than cautious approach appears to be adopted where Flood Risk is concerned, by certain cpbc development committee members.

The cpbc officer appeared unaware that the whole of Canvey Island is a Critical Drainage Area.

The questionable use of Substitute councillors to replace two absentees at the meeting, bearing in mind the technical issues highlighted in this planning proposal, proved to be decisive, as 1 voted to Approve and 1 voted to Abstain.

With the votes recorded as 5 to Approve and 5 Against, with 2 Abstentions, the Chairman chose to use his Casting Vote, and consequently rather than holding further deliberations on the subjects contained within this post and others not mentioned, the Application was Approved!

The chances of Canvey Island Flooding during the next 1 in 316 year event, may not be in 316 years time!

Of late on Canvey Island social media websites, it has been noted how some contributors have expressed their view that the island faces a flooding threat from Rainfall, rather than from a Tidal breach or over-topping.

Indeed some have even gone as far as stating that it is Scare-mongering to even suggest the possibility that a threat from Tidal flooding even exists. For this post we will ignore Tidal flooding, leaving those wishing to keep their heads in the sand, and concentrate on Surface Water Flooding.

Following the 2014 Summer Flooding on Canvey Island and the ensuing Flood Investigation Reports, it was recommended that the terminology to indicate the threat of flooding should be altered. That is the existing 1 in 30 year, 1 in 100 year etc possibility of flooding, should be updated so that a more appropriate, more readily understood explanation of the possibility of a flood event is available.

Three years on and it appears that little has changed. This leaves homeowners and businesses oblivious to potential dangers and consequently ill-prepared.

This also leads local authorities into money saving complacency, and having to be reminded of their maintenance responsibilities.

Drain 4.04.17

There are concerns that monies from central government is granted but not strictly allocated to maintenance intended, councils preferring to place grants into central funds.

Some scepticism eludes from the ECC Flood Investigation where maintenance funds were apparently used, and yet the work carried out had little effect on preventing flooding in the following months.

Extracts from the ECC Investigation into the Canvey Island 2014 reveals;

In the period of time between 13:40 and 18:00 one million cubic metres of water fell on the island, which equates to almost the full capacity of Wembley Stadium.

This event was unprecedented,                                                                                                                       and the return period for this rainfall event is estimated at 1 in 316 years or 0.3% chance of it occurring in any given year.

Rainfall on the island may flow a substantial distance before reaching the pumps, through infrastructure owned or managed by a large number of different organisations and individuals and in some cases without a clear understanding of ownership. Any constriction on flow either due to blockage or insufficient capacity for the rainfall event can affect the effective operation of the entire drainage system.

As a result of the relatively densely populated urban areas and large areas of impermeable surfaces the island is especially susceptible to intense rainfall events which result in flash flooding. In combination with the flat topography of the island this means that Canvey is particularly dependent on the designed drainage infrastructure to mitigate flood risk.

Following the longest sustained period of wet weather on record over the winter months, Essex County Council released an additional £1m of emergency revenue funding to deal with highway related flooding.

In mid-February 2014 Castle Point Borough Council put forward its Top 5 flooding sites to Essex County Council, 4 of which were on Canvey Island:

Canvey Seafront area, Lottem Road area, North Avenue area, Town Centre area.

Extensive cleansing, CCTV surveys and jetting of the highways assets was undertaken at all of these locations and where necessary repair works were programmed.  

Arising from these works in the Canvey Seafront Area a larger Surface Water Alleviation Scheme (SWAS) has been identified and put forward for funding (circa £100,000). 

Generally, the drainage system at this location is very flat and prone to heavy silting.

Gullies, catch pits and associated pipework on Canvey Island are cleansed annually as part of the cyclical annual gulley cleanse.                                                                                                                      

There are a total of 5,767 highway and footway gullies in Canvey. 

In 2013/14 5,672 gullies were attended and of these 5,298 (91.8%) were cleansed.

On a personal level, my area of Canvey is amongst the unfortunate 8.2%.

However, returning to the issue of updating the terminology to indicate the threat of flooding should be altered. That is the existing 1 in 30 year, 1 in 100 year etc possibility of flooding, should be updated so that a more appropriate, more readily understood explanation of the possibility of a flood event.

It has been 3 years since the 2014 Canvey Island summer flooding and it appears no new system of flood possibility measurement has emerged.

Meanwhile following the flooding in Houston USA, the FiveThirtyEight blog reveals similar concerns regarding Flood Risk measurement terminology is a talking point across the Atlantic.

The FiveThirtyEight Blog post can be read HERE.