Agenda item


Purpose of the report:  Policy Development and Review


This report contains the findings and recommendations of the Flooding Task Group, which was commissioned by the Environment & Transport Select Committee to investigate the impacts of the recent flood events that affected Surrey in December 2013 and early 2014.





Ben Skipp (Programme Manager)

Mark Howarth (Flood and Water Strategy Manager)


Key points raised during the discussion:


1.    The Chairman prefaced Member discussions on the report by qualifying some of the information provided in Annexe 1. It was highlighted that, for each town or village listed in the annexe, the flood source was listed as the original reason for the flooding, i.e. the river which burst its banks, rather than any other water sources which may have overflowed as a result. The Environment Agency (EA) manage main rivers, so their data has been used. 


2.    The Committee asked how the Council was working to mitigate the dangers of flooding caused by sources of water which fall outside the EA’s remit. Sewage was cited by Members as a particular problem for residents and had inundated numerous houses during the floods that occurred in early 2014. The Chairman noted that some leaks in the sewage network were caused by rivers bursting their banks and so it was vital to work with the EA to ensure that appropriate flood defences were put in place. The Chairman asked the Flood and Water Strategy Manager (FWSM) to provide an update on any discussions taking place with Thames Water who maintained Surrey’s sewage network.


3.    The FWSM advised that progress was being made with Thames Water in getting them to contribute to flood prevention strategies. The Chairman highlighted that the EA only has power to regulate Thames Water where sewage is at risk of draining into a river but that no powers are available to compel them to take action where sewage is at risk of flooding homes. As Thames Water is a private company, SCC is not allowed to contribute money towards upgrading the sewage network.


4.    Members expressed concern that the proposed solution to prevent flooding in the future for some areas was still listed as ‘unknown’ in the annexe. The Chairman highlighted that SCC and the EA were at present still exploring what measures could be taken to reduce the risk of flooding where the solution was listed as unknown but advised the Committee that the flooding Task Group would ensure that measures would be identified to mitigate flooding risks.


5.     The Committee asked for further information on the River Thames Scheme and asked for assurances that the strategy wouldn’t come at the expense of local projects creating flood defences for communities in Surrey. The FWSM confirmed that there are a number of local schemes and projects taking place in Surrey to develop flood defences. The Chairman suggested that the time taken to get planning permission for flood schemes could be a cause for delays to implementation if not resourced adequately. The Programme Manager (PM) agreed to ascertain the current involvement of planning officers in flood scheme development and whether there should be any concern around resource to take schemes through the planning process in optimum timescales.


6.    Members asked who would be paying for the Caterham Bourne flood defences which were being built in conjunction with Croydon Council. The FWSM indicated that the intention was for Surrey to pay for these defences and to put it forward as their contribution to the Caterham Bourne Scheme being overseen by the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee


7.    Members pointed out that communication during flooding was listed as the primary concern of Surrey residents and so requested information on how the officers had been engaging with the local communities. The PM advised that many multi-agency engagement events had been carried out since the floods, in the form of public meetings and market place events.  Partner agencies are continuing with this engagement, but moving towards building community resilience to flooding.  This will be a long term exercise and a new SCC post has been recruited to provide more capacity to take this work forwards.  The Surrey Local Resilience Forum also carried out de-briefs following the winter floods and have working to improve communication between agencies where lessons have been learnt.  The PM praised the work of SCC’s Community Partnerships Team during the flood recovery and their expertise is being utilised in the community resilience work and to help improve information flow with Member in future flood incidents.


8.    The Committee expressed reservations about SCC’s relationship with the EA and felt that they needed to be brought into the discussions more as the Council’s main partner in mitigating flooding risks. The FWSM advised that SCC work with the EA through the Surrey Flood Risk Partnership Board. The EA are ultimately responsible for managing the flood risk associated for main rivers, however they do consult and work closely with the council, It would be difficult for the county to change the EA’s national policy on issues such as dredging without considerable evidence that the policy was wrong .Members were informed that bids had been submitted to the EA for projects to defend the highest risk areas in Surrey and that the results of these bids were still pending.


9.    Members asked whether there was any help that the Select Committee was able to provide in order to encourage the EA to process these bids more rapidly. The officers indicated that they would discuss how the Select Committee could assist in this respect and report back.


10.  A number of bids had been made by officers to secure funding contribution for Surrey flooding schemes. Officers were currently in the process of forwarding a bid to the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC). Concern was raised around the prioritisation given to the ‘index of multiple deprivation’ and the effects this could have on the funding Surrey received from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).


11.  The PM stated that he would investigate further how the ‘index of multiple deprivation’ funding was included in the funding model and would report back to the Committee with findings.


12.  The committee agreed to include an additional recommendation around the early submission of planning consent for flooding schemes.




The Environment and Transport Select Committee agreed the following recommendations;


a)     Surrey County Council should lobby Central Government to change the powers of the Water Company regulators, such that proper investment in the drainage networks of the water companies can be directed, until such time as the Secretary of State is satisfied that those drainage networks fully comply with current standards.


b)     The Environment Agency should be pressed to give strong consideration to a programme of selective, tactical dredging of specified areas of the Thames.


c)     Surrey County Council should work with partner organisations to make significant improvements to the arrangements for communications in emergencies, and in particular to provide for communication structures between residents and the relevant authorities. Particular attention should be made for special arrangements in holiday periods.


d)     Surrey County Council should work with all the Boroughs and Districts and with residents in the relevant areas to establish flood fora.


Actions/ Further Information to be provided:


·         For the PM and FWSM to investigate how flooding schemes are prioritised by DEFRA.


·         For the PM to investigate further how the ‘index of multiple deprivation’ funding formula operates and report back findings to the Committee.


·         For the PM to meet with the SPOA (Surrey Planning Officers Association) to discuss flood schemes and anticipated timescales for implementation along with the associated planning approval required and to report back to the committee with findings. 

Committee Next Steps:



Supporting documents: