To consider the petition 'Reduce Flooding and examine flood risk in detail, before allocating more development sites'
Report of the Cabinet Member Customer & Regulatory Services
Cllr. Savage introduced the petition in the absence of Cllr. Nelson, thanking her for putting in a considerable effort to organise it. He noted that the council’s petition scheme was an important way for local residents to highlight issues as critical and consequential as flood prevention. Flooding had had a devastating effect on Gloucestershire in the last few decades, especially in 2007, and over recent years, extreme weather events had increased in frequency and severity. It was not just neighbouring authorities which had well-founded concerns about flood risk – this was a national issue.
This petition arose in part from Cllr. Nelson representing residents’ concerns across the A46 corridor, which had an increased risk of flooding. It was hard to overestimate the impact that flooding had on individuals, businesses and communities – not just the initial clean-up, but also the constant fear of it happening again. Addressing the root causes of extreme weather was essential, and the UK government should be commended for its ambitious plans in relation to climate change and the environment. It was also important to recognise good work at local level and the measures put in place since 2007. He added that the speed at which 750 signatures were collected demonstrated the importance of the issue, and that a similar petition would come before Tewkesbury Borough Council very soon.
In response, the Cabinet Member Customer and Regulatory Services thanked Cllr. Nelson for organising the petition and Cllr. Savage for presenting it. He especially agreed with the key point regarding the personal impact of flooding. The good news for signatories was that everything the petition called for was either something the council was planning to do or was required to do in the coming years. Genuine public consultation had taken place and he was very pleased with results. Flooding was an important issue across the town in all its forms, although there were some particularly vulnerable areas to focus on. Responsibility for tackling this also lay with partners, such as the county council, and he suggested that as a county councillor, Cllr. Nelson could take this to them too.
He added that existing JCS development proposals must avoid areas vulnerable to flooding and must not increase the level of flood risk. The new processes in the next JCS review would follow the guidance of the national planning policy framework and consider cumulative impact, but he suggested that they could go further by developing sophisticated urban drainage systems and building with nature. He hoped they could develop a natural and holistic approach to flood management, in order to best adapt to climate change and protect the town.
· One Member welcomed the petition and the officer report, stressing that it was important to communicate on this issue considering residents’ very real concerns. The council needed to let people know what they were doing and also help them understand things like seasonal constraints.
· One Member emphasised that flooding prevention measures did not necessarily prevent development. In their ward, shared ownership housing had been built in a flood zone on proper foundations that gave it height as a protective measure against flooding. He hoped that, as part of the Conservative administration at GCC, Cllr. Nelson would raise the issue with them too. A key issue for residents was blocked drains, which was a Highways issue. He added that partners needed to pull their weight if the council was going to be able to make a difference.
· One Member noted that they could not find any reference in report to supplementary planning guidance regarding flooding and drainage, which would help consultation with developers. The current policy required developers to just not increase flood risk, but it should go further and ensure that they contribute to a reduction in flood risk instead.
· One Member agreed that it was important to address these issues before they become very serious, citing the risk of flash flooding in the Charlton Kings area in particular.
· One Member added that their ward had suffered very badly in the 2007 floods and now had a very effective flood alleviation scheme. The problem was that there were three schemes nearby: one managed by the environment agency, one by Severn Trent and one by GCC. Flood defences would only be effective if these agencies were in constant dialogue and built a proper partnership.
· One Member thanked the petition organiser and the Cabinet Member for his response. They suggested that Conservative members should lobby the government as they were the ones who could cause the most change.
· One Member noted that the online information distributed by the Environment Agency was often hours late, and suggested that the process needed sharpening so it was genuinely useful for residents.
The Mayor moved to a vote, where it was unanimously:
1. The existing work that the council was doing to reduce flood risk be noted, including already winning accreditation for a nature-led approach to flood risk in development, and that Council commit to work with relevant partners and agencies in managing the impacts of climate change ensuring that the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy plans for the longer term needs of flood management and mitigation;
2. The considerable responsibility of the Council in flood risk management as well as the roles of other organisations be noted;
3. Council thank the petitioners and acknowledge that this was a very important issue.