Derbyshire residents 'expected to take more responsibility for flood defences' due to cash shortfall

Derbyshire residents will be expected to take more responsibility for flood defences due to a shortfall in Government and council cash, a meeting has heard.

By Eddie Bisknell
Friday, 25th February 2022, 9:50 am

In a Derbyshire County Council meeting on February 23, councillors were also told that much more was needed to prevent and limit flooding than numerous expensive wall projects.

A report written by authority officials details that “the council simply cannot continue to try and build bigger, higher and wider flood defences to protect property”.

During the meeting, Cllr Damien Greenhalgh said a resident in the High Peak had spent £8,000 on their own flood defences, only for their home to flood due to road drainage issues.

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Flooding in Whaley Bridge. Photo - Robert Lowton

He said this was a “significant amount for someone to bear” and “that is why we have public authorities to deal with these issues”.

Options which residents in some flood-hit communities have installed include metal plates which can be slotted into walls around their properties, swapping out wooden gates during heavy rainfall.

Other options include extensive sand-bagging around properties and barriers at the bottom of doorways into properties.

Officials detailed in a report that the authority will need to “promote more resilience”, writing that “by being more resilient to flooding, customers can recover from flooding more quickly”.

Matlock has been hit by serious flooding after Storm Franklin battered the town with torrential rain and strong winds

Richard Ward, a lead flood risk officer at the authority, told the meeting: “There is always going to be a place for hard engineering such as flood walls and there is Government funding available for those schemes.

“However, there is only a finite sum of money for the whole country and Derbyshire would only get a slice of that.

“So it will be about helping residents to help themselves.

“We can continue to build hard defences but that only goes so far and the money always goes so far.”

Bakewell Road, Matlock, lies under water as overnight rain deluged the area. Rod Kirkpatrick/F Stop Press

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He said that other measures such as dams and natural flood management schemes further upstream were being explored and already being tested in the New Mills area.

Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the authority, had told the Local Democracy Reporting Service this week that the council may have to pull money from several of its key projects in order to fund flood defences and make repairs.

He said the authority “there is too much for us to cope with” and that “we are an authority of limited means, ultimately, and we need help and support”.

Matlock hit by flooding

Cllr Greenhalgh said that due to the recent flooding, and based on previous issues, “we need to be prioritising flood defences higher than we currently do”.

Mr Ward said he agreed with this view.

He was also asked if his team had enough staff and money to combat flooding, and responded to say he would “welcome” more resources.

He said it was too soon to say how many properties had been affected by the recent bout of flooding but that this was being assessed.

Mr Ward said early information showed there were fewer properties impacted than in the November 2019 floods.

He said river levels were not as high as in November 2019, when new records were set, but were “getting close”.

Mr Ward said the authority was still well prepared for flooding.

He said: “We are in a pretty good place, but unfortunately properties were still flooded and we can’t always stop that from happening.”

Mr Ward had written in his report that “it has been a significant challenge for the council, but a challenge that it was, and still is, well prepared for”.

Cllr Nigel Gourlay said housing developments needed to be more thoroughly vetted to ensure they sufficiently mitigate flooding.

Mr Ward said legislation giving local authorities in England the powers to have the final sign-off on flood prevention ponds built as part of developments has not been adopted, but would be of great help.

Cllr Sue Burfoot, a Matlock councillor, said: “Thousands of houses have been built in the Dales and that is thousands of houses worth of extra drainage and with each planning application looked at on its own merits, nobody is looking at the bigger picture.

“It is us that is left with the cost of repairs when the drainage systems overflow, not the developers.”

Cllr Kewal Singh Athwal, county cabinet member for highways, said: “Perhaps you are right and we need to look at new developments and how they affect things.

“It is an issue we will be looking at. It is not an issue that is going to go away and the infrastructure in some places was not built for this and is just not up to it anymore.”