Flooding – the past doesn’t predict the future

“Nearly every major city and town in Europe is built on a river and we protect this urban infrastructure by using past floods as a gauge of the potential risk,” said Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.

“The study shows that this approach underestimates the risk, as climate change has made European floods occur earlier in the year, increasing their potential impact.

“This means all the infrastructure that we have built to protect our cities needs to be reviewed as much of it will be inadequate to protect us from future climate change-induced extreme flooding. … “


River Otter restoration ‘could cost £40 million’

Four options of which:

“Dr Sam Bridgewater, Clinton Devon Estates’ Head of Wildlife and Conservation, said: “In coming up with the four options, we have ruled out a number of alternatives which are either impossible to fund, or the partners feel do not meet our requirement to safeguard the future of the estuary for the benefit of local people, wildlife and the environment. …

“At present, the long-term future of the cricket club, part of the South West Coast Path and access to homes and businesses in the South Farm Road area are under threat from the impacts of flooding and poor drainage. We hope that this project will be able to address these issues, improve the natural environment and ensure that the area remains accessible in the future to the many thousands of people who visit and enjoy the estuary each year.

“We have been gathering feedback at the exhibition to find out what people think of the options. We’re also putting all of the exhibition material on the project website, so people who couldn’t get to the event on the day can go online to learn more, and also download a feedback form to send back to us.

The exhibition material is available at:

Dr Bridgewater added: “Feedback from the public will help inform our decision about which option will be the best one to take forwards. Once we’ve analysed the feedback, we’ll share our findings with the Lower Otter Restoration Project Stakeholder Group and the public.

“At the same time, we are seeking financial support from a number of bodies which would enable us to move forward with the project.”


Identify a preferred option Summer 2017
Develop an outline design Sept – Oct 2017
Second public exhibition October 2017
Develop business case End of 2017
Submit planning application 2018 – 2019
Construction 2019 – 2021


“Nine tenths of England’s floodplains not fit for purpose, study finds”

With EDDC allowing building on flood plains all over the district – a timely warning:

“Only a tenth of England’s extensive floodplains are now fit for purpose – 90% no longer function properly – with the shortfall putting an increasing number of homes and businesses at risk of flooding, according to a new report.

Floods are more likely due to climate change and will claim higher economic costs unless action is taken to halt the damage to floodplains and restore some of their functions, warned the authors of the 12-month study – the first to paint a comprehensive view of England’s floodplains and their capabilities.

“We have ignored our floodplains,” said George Heritage of Salford University, co-author of the study the Changing Face of Floodplains, published by Co-Op Insurance on Thursday. “The changes to them mean water [from heavy rainfall] can flow much faster downstream, and can flow at the same speed as the water in the rivers.”

This accelerated flow has led to sudden and unstoppable deluges in recent years. For instance, Storm Desmond in 2015 affected more than 6,000 homes as rivers and streams burst their banks and spread water over floodplains. As these natural floodplains had been altered by man-made features, they no longer had the ability to store water, leading to rapid flows into urban areas which led to the devastation.

Storm Desmond caused more than £500m in damages, and misery for families excluded from their homes sometimes for months. The UK’s flooding bills are on the rise, with scientists warning of rocketing numbers of cloudbursts and periods of sudden and intense rainfall as climate change takes effect.

Floodplains act as natural “sponges”, soaking up excess water in their vegetation, forming natural buffers that hold back or divert rushing water after rain, and providing areas where rivers can breach their banks and wetlands can be replenished.

Intensive agriculture, increasing urbanisation, poor management of rivers and the draining of wetlands have left the vast majority of these natural features – many previously preserved for centuries by communities who understood their value – unable to fulfil these valuable functions, with some close to collapse.

Building on floodplains has been singled out for years as a key problem, but perhaps surprisingly was found to contribute only about a tenth of the damage in the study. Far greater is intensive farming, which has created artificially “smooth” and uniform landscapes, with hedgerows removed, large areas given over to single crops, wetlands drained and woods and grassland diminished. Farming accounts for nearly two-thirds of the loss of functioning floodplains, according to the study.

Natural floodplains cover about 5% of England, from upland areas and tablelands to low-lying marshes, such as the Somerset levels and the East Anglian fens. Once they were used for grazing for parts of the year, or left uncultivated. However, the exploitation of such areas accelerated in the middle of the last century, when wetlands were drained, hedgerows grubbed up and small farms gave way to bigger farming enterprises.

Today, the report found, 90% of England’s floodplains no longer function properly, with 65% modified by agriculture “meaning they’re now man-made, smoother surfaces”; 9% lost to urban and suburban building developments; 4% are now occupied by open water and 6% by semi-natural woodland and rough grassland; and only 0.5% is now natural or semi-natural wetland.

“It would be almost impossible to return the altered areas to their original state,” noted Heritage. “But it is possible to work with farmers to introduce features that would allow them to function better. …”


Twiss and shout in Feniton

Phil Twiss is hoping to follow in the footsteps of disgraced fellow Tory Graham Brown, and latterly independent councillor Claire Wright to represent the ward of Feniton and Honiton in the forthcoming County Council elections.

Leaflets currently adding to EDDC’s recycling efforts include a testimonial from MP Neil Parish that “Phil will be an asset in a number of matters, such as helping positively to continue with the work put together, to make Feniton more secure from flooding”.

Strangely there seems to be no room to acknowledge Graham Brown’s inability to get a flood scheme going for Feniton, Claire Wright’s dogged success in ensuring that the scheme was not forgotten, and independent District Councillor Susie Bond’s determination and success in getting the £1.6m programme implemented. Not to mention Susie Bond’s tireless work as a flood warden and information broadcaster each time danger has struck the village.

Any “continuation” is totally down to the efforts of these two ladies.

Whether Mr Twiss is willing to acknowledge their contribution on the stump remains to be seen.

Readers will recall it was Mr Twiss who, in 2014, took offence at a metaphor on Ms Wright’s blog about the need to “cull” Conservatives in East Devon.

Police subsequently declined to investigate. Hardly surprising since Conservative Leader David Cameron used the word in exactly the same sense in 2012:


Truth or post-truth in Feniton’s election?

Parish queries flood risk terminology

“TWO South West MPs have called to rid the flooding terminology “one in 100 years” for fears it is misleading.

Rebecca Pow, and Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton and chairman for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Committee, spoke during a House of Commons debate on Defra spending.

MP Neil Parish said that flood prevention work is “fragmented” and warned of the threats posed by very high levels of rainfall in a short period of time.

MP Parish said his committee had examined the term “one in 100 years flood”.

He said: “One of the problems is that if you have been flooded now and you are in a one in a 100 years risk, if you’re not careful people are inclined to think for another 99 years they’ll be safe from floods.

“Of course that is not the case – it’s very much the case if you’re in a high flood risk area you remain in that high flood risk area either until better defences are created or there is resilience measures put in place.

“But you’ll probably always remain in a pretty high risk area.”

Rebecca Pow, said: “Communication is very important in the case of flooding.

“One of the things that came out of that select committee report was perhaps we shouldn’t use this terminology any more – calling things a one in 100 years flooding incident.

“We should have a different way of warning people about how serious floods are without these years attached to them, as it’s misleading.”

Mr Parish said Ms Pow was “absolutely right”.”


(Greater) Exeter area rainfall expected to increase by 73% say researchers

“The trend of paving over gardens is putting Exeter homes at risk of flooding as the city is set to see a 73 per cent increase in rain, and paved gardens could see the city’s drains overwhelmed. …”


One can presume that this includes the East Devon area. Cranbrook is already a concrete jungle and those close to rivers or on flood plains will be particularly hard hit.

And just imagine the effect on properties around it of building on and paving over the proposed Sidford Industrial estate, not to mention its effect on the River Sid!

“Major flooding in UK now likely every year, warns lead climate adviser”

“Major flooding in the UK is now likely to happen every year but ministers still have no coherent long-term plan to deal with it, the government’s leading adviser on the impacts of climate change has warned. …

… Krebs also said ministers would regret cutting flood protection measures for new homes. New laws passed earlier in 2016 aim to drive the building of 1m new homes but Krebs, an independent member of the House of Lords, said he was disappointed ministers had rejected proposals to cut the risk of the homes flooding and make them cheap to heat.

“The imperative to build more homes was overriding anything that might get in the way and I think the housebuilders got at the Department for Communities and Local Government to say all of this is going to be costly and difficult,” he said.

“It isn’t [costly] really, but they just want to get on and build homes according to the bog-standard, simple template and not have to worry about whether the development is sustainable in terms of carbon footprint and flood risk. In 20 years time, people will look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?’”