Natural events blamed for Thurrock floods - with Environment Agency and council playing down concerns about mechanical failures, roadwork impact and more houses. But a new action plan is in place and £3 million will be spent on defences

  Posted: 05.07.21 at 23:23 by The Editor

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COUNCILLORS in Thurrock will hear a detailed summary of the reasons behind significant flooding in the borough in January, which saw properties in the Mardyke Valley - including North Stifford and Bulphan - flooded and a number of properties and roads in Stanford-le-Hope left under water.

The main blame for the flooding - described in the report as 'a once in a generation event' is attributed to the volume of rain over preceding days which overwhelmed the established water courses and sluice gates at Purfleet and Mucking.

Though it is acknowledged that the sluice gate at Purfleet suffered a breakdown, the council and the Environment Agency insist it was not a major cause of the backlog of water that flooded the Mardyke.

Despite photographic and film evidence supplied by Thurrock Nub News - and eye witness testimony including Environment Agency workers, the report exonerated the Environment Agency.

It says: "Reporting of events at the time have also stated that Mardyke Sluice was not operating, and therefore closed causing the flooding. In discussion with the Environment Agency, they have confirmed that these reports are inaccurate.

"The sluice in Purfleet, like Mucking, is gravity fed, but due to its location is fitted with a Guillotine Gate, and is shut when the tide comes in. This is to usually stop water from the tide rushing backwards upstream.

“The Environment Agency has however stated that the gate was not able to be fully reopened, and emergency works were being undertaken. They do however insist water was still able to feed out from the sluice to help reduce water levels upstream, and an additional bypass channel was also utilised to aid the reduction in levels.

“Furthermore, the Environment Agency prioritises risk to residential dwellings over other assets, and determined that none were at risk as a result of the issues with the sluice gate.”

The report makes no mention of emergency action taken by Anglian Water, which rushed pumps to the Mardyke area to prevent the flooding spilling over into the drainage and water system in South Ockendon.

Nor is there any mention of the any possible impact from the major A13 road widening project and new homebuilding on the edge of Stanford-le-Hope, which many local people believe contributed significantly to the problem.

The report does say that the council response to the flooding, particularly in Stanford-le-Hope, fell short of expectations and an action plan has now been put in place in case the ‘;once in a generation’ events happen again!

The council says:
The following Action Plan was created to improve the Council’s response to future flooding events:

• To enhance the Council’s webpage to provide clear information on flooding, including responsibilities for services and organisations and information of use to residents and the community;
• To identify a unified mechanism for flooding reports to be submitted, captured, and reviewed within the Council;
• To determine responsibilities of the Council in relation to flood risk and promote these;
• Identify a mechanism so that those affected by flooding are captured and recorded for records and evidence purposes – people are flooded and this may not be reported;
• To build upon existing internal protocols to develop an appropriate mechanism for the contact centre to record and process reports of flooding;
• To build upon existing internal protocols and processes within the Emergency Planning Team to manage flood incidents, and to enable incidents to be escalated within the Council – e.g. flow chart and officer distribution list;
• Where appropriate, engage with communities to develop community flood plans – e.g. Bulphan;
• Ensure greater integration of flood risk matters into the Local Plan and future development;
• Investigate and undertake enforcement action to prevent future flood risk.

The full report into the events that took place between 14 and 17 of January will be presented to Tuesday evening’s (6 July) meeting of the council’s planning, transportation and regeneration overview and scrutiny and can be read via this link.

Despite largely putting January’s events down to a natural phenomenon, with the report saying Anglian Water recorded that the months of December and January were the wettest recorded in the region in over 100 years, the presentation to councillors reports on plans to spend around £3 million over the next couple of years on the local drainage infrastructure.

The report acknowledges that there are problems in the area which have led to officers seeking funding from the government.

It says: “Officers have been successful in securing an award of funding following a joint bid submission alongside Southend Borough Council to the Environment Agency and DEFRA for a value of £6.4m under the Innovative Resilience Fund.

“The primary function of this bid is to investigate and implement innovative measures and techniques, rather than hard infrastructure, to reduce the risk of flooding.

“Within Thurrock, the project is split into three parts, the upper catchments of both the Mardyke, and watercourse systems in Stanford le Hope which feed into Mucking Creek – using “Natural Flood Management” techniques to hold water flows upstream so that capacity further downstream is extended. Within the mid-catchment – working with the community to store rainwater for communal uses or delay its flow through the surface water system by exploring concepts such as rainwater harvesting for use in toilets.

“Within the lower catchment towards the River Thames, working with historic landfill sites to protect them from coastal erosion through a range of techniques to reduce water speeds and wave action. The project will also look to explore providing a visual warning system within communities to warn of flood risk and provide residents with an opportunity to prepare.

“The value to Thurrock and the Council is approximately £3m. The Expression of Interest was submitted in late January 2021 and officers were informed of the successful outcome on 29 March 2021.

"Officers are now asked to finalise a full business case – funded by the project – with full award in spring/summer 2022, dependent on submission of the full business case. The projects are to be delivered across a six year time period, and completed by March 2027.”

How Nub News covered events in January

Jan 14 - Flooding in Stanford-le-Hope as firefighters join residents trying to keep water at bay. How the morning developed via our video reports. Weather forecast is for more rain.

Jan 16 - Councillors call for probe into cause of Stanford-le-Hope floods

Jan 17 - Environment agency asked to be held to account. Stable owners tell of despair and anger after massive damage is caused by floodwater they believe could have been prevented

Film round up of events.

Problems at Purfleet

Calls to check safety and remove huge mounds of commercially dumped waste from Thurrock's flooded valley

Jan 18 -Urgent warning over flooding in west of borough and in Mardyke Valley as government reacts following a weekend of high water and damage

March: Water mystery. Council keeps cards close to its chest over Stanford-le-Hope flooding but emphatically states that it has nothing to do with A13 widening project.

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