Ottery floods one year on: EA hails 'succesful steps'

ONE year on from the October 2008 floods that devastated Ottery St Mary, the Environment Agency is hailing the successful completion of several initiatives to reduce flood risk– with more work to come.

ONE year on from the October 2008 floods that devastated Ottery St Mary, the Environment Agency is hailing the successful completion of several initiatives to reduce flood risk - with more work to come.

Since the dramatic storms swept across East Devon, the Environment Agency, East Devon District Council and Devon County Council have cleared up the mess left behind, worked to find out why the floods happened, and analysed what can be done to reduce the impact of any future storms on a similar scale.

The 2008 floods affected more than 350 homes in the East Devon area.

As a consequence, the multi-agency East Devon Flood Recovery Group was set up to examine all the issues around the flooding. It re-examined flood prevention arrangements and the multi-agency response to the flooding and also produced a detailed plan of improvements to help reduce flood risk and impact in the future.

Some initiatives have come to fruition, and detailed work continues to ensure that further improvements are carried out and vigilance is maintained. Residents in the affected areas have been kept informed through a free flood recovery newsletter.

Gordon Trapmore, Area Flood Risk Manager from the Environment Agency, said: 'Working together as a partnership we have achieved a lot in the past year, but it isn't stopping now. Work is ongoing to identify ways in which we can further strengthen local flood protection. Extensive research has shown that the way land was managed was one of the factors contributing to the high level of run-off.'

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The projects successfully completed in the recent past include:

* Hi-tech CCTV surveys of storm water pipes in Feniton revealed that some of them were partially blocked, which could contribute to flooding following heavy rain. As a result, EDDC and DCC have already done some clearance work and contacted the owners of private pipe-work to suggest improvements.

* EDDC is also putting in two bids for funding aimed at improving the drainage system in the Feniton area.

* The Environment Agency and its partners on the East Devon Flood Recovery Group are teaming up with farmers to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and other properties by improving land management and reducing soil compaction.

* Residents whose homes are at risk of flooding could apply for a grant from a scheme administered by the Environment Agency, Devon County Council and East Devon District Council. The funding can be used to buy products to protect homes.

* Hundreds of local residents visited a Flood Fair in Ottery St Mary to get advice, and to view products and systems to help householders protect their properties.

* Collation and mapping of all the main drainage assets and flood risk areas, identifying which organisations or individuals are responsible for them.

* Drainage works and culverts checked and cleared to improve flood resilience.

* Replacement of damaged drains and other flood resilience work.

* Improvement works to the flood scheme in Ottery St. Mary. These include trash screen modifications and the provision of a barrier to prevent vehicles being washed into the watercourse during floods.

* Transferring responsibility for a number of new watercourses and therefore giving the Agency greater regulatory control over the activities of developers and riparian owners.

* Working with parish councils on preparing flood plans as part of emergency planning. Workshops were held with parishes affected by flooding and completed plans are now being received.

Councillor Graham Brown, East Devon District Council's Portfolio Holder for Environment and a Ward member for Feniton, said: 'The council is engaged in ongoing work to improve and maintain flood protection. The multi-agency work helped provide a detailed list of many ways in which defences and response procedures could be improved. This has seen many projects come to fruition, with more hopefully to follow.'

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: 'We have to remember that last year's floods turned a lot of people's lives upside down, so I'm encouraged to see all of the authorities and agencies working together on this to protect local communities in future. These freak weather conditions are occurring more frequently and are becoming the norm, so we have to prepare ourselves for all eventualities.'