Wye Flood Working Group
The Great Stour in flood at Wye Mill. In practice, surface water flooding is a bigger problem for Wye. The National Infrastructure Commission's 2022 report on surface water flooding concludes that extreme weather events from climate change, more urban runoff and inadequate drainage 'could push an additional 230,000 properties into the high risk category by 2055.'
Climate change and flood risks
The Flood Working Group is addressing the local causes of flooding, and preparing for the effects of climate change. For context, the Met Office expects that the UK's weather will remain variable, but climate change will result in:
- 'Warmer and wetter winters
- Hotter and drier summers
- More frequent and intense weather extremes'
- Source: Climate change in the UK the Met Office
The predicted consequences of climate change include more frequent and intense convection downpours and flash flooding events after summer thunderstorms. The surface water flooding events are localised, sudden and unpredictable. While milder, wetter winters will keep farmland at field capacity for longer and this will increase the potential for flooding, especially during winter storm events. How the chalk aquifer responds each year will be critical for the springs and nailbournes across the North Downs.
Flooding in Wye
Tackling flooding problems
The severe rain events of April and May 2018 and the subsequent surface water flooding of homes and businesses, remain fresh in the minds of many residents. The Parish Council and the Wye Flood Working Group (FWG) members are working on practical ways to avoid or mitigate future flood risk events and build community resilience and promote natural flood management options. The list of actions needed to deal with the whole spectrum of flooding issues The list includes:
- Flood risk assessment to identify effective flood preventative measures on site;
- Natural flood management to 'slow the flow' e.g. leaky dams;
- Practical advice for householders on how to keep floodwater out of their homes, prepare for a live flooding event safely and if all these measures fail, how to deal with the aftermath of a flood, from clearing up to house to insurance issues.
- National Flood Forum Helpline 01299 403055 and its website and Blue Pages directory of property flood products provide residents with advice, information and contacts. (The Parish Council does not endorse any of the products listed in Blue Pages).
- Over 5.2 million homes in England are at risk of flooding. In May 2022 the Town and Country Planning Association produced Planning for the Climate Emergency - a short video to outline the causes, consequences of flooding and actions to manage the problem.
- Property Flood Resilience is a free e-book that shares real-life experiences of flooding, and practical advice on how recover after a flood and how to 'Build Back Better' for flood resilience in future
Since the flooding events of April and May 2018 the Wye Flood Working Group meets to prevent or mitigate the effects of future flooding events. The Parish Council is proactive in supporting this resident-led initiative. The group is working with KCC Highways as the key partner, and the Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership, is working with landowners to identify natural flood management opportunities and nature-based solutions to reduce flooding. However, finding the necessary funding for these schemes remains a fundamental obstacle.
Image: The Great Stour in flood, upstream of Wye bridge. The wide floodplain is doing its job, and the swans in the distance are taking advantage of this temporary lake. Charter House in Ashford is just visible on the horizon, immediately to the right of the setting sun.
In summary, nature-based solutions aim to reduce flooding by using natural options to slow the flow of water across the landscape - before it reaches the river. This approach gives people at risk of flooding more time to prepare, and reduces the peak water levels of rivers and streams.
The nature based solutions promoted by the Environment Agency may include:
- planting trees and hedges to increase water absorption, catch rainfall and slow down surface water run-off;
- improving soil cover with plants to reduce water pollution and run- off;
- diverting high water flows and create areas to store water;
- creating leaky barriers to slow down the rate at which water flows in streams and ditches.
The Environment Agency's pilot programme report (download the document below) explains the benefits of the Natural Flood Management Programme, and the value of working with nature. In summary, the sixty projects created some 1.6 million cubic metres of temporary water storage to slow the flow and increase flood resilience for 15 thousand homes, for an average cost of £1,000 per home. The programme is also contributingd to nature recovery by improving 610km of river habitats and biodiversity and storing carbon in new woodlands.
'Using the power of nature to increase flood resilience' (November 2021) Environment Agency
Wye flood actions
Wye Flood Working Group is tackling the flooding problems and building community resilience on five levels by:
1) Taking a landscape level approach to identify options for natural flood management measures to slow flows and manage flash storm events as these can soon overwhelm drainage systems and cause surface water flooding;
2. Working with KCC Highways, Kent Resilience Forum, Environment Agency, the River Stour (Kent) Internal Drainage Board and riparian owners, to maintain and improve drainage assets and minimise risks;
3) Supporting local initiatives e.g. Flood Warden training to monitor and manage problems safely e.g. be prepared to install physical barriers to close roads and divert flood water away from homes and businesses;
4) Enabling individual householders to take practical measures to protect their own properties and prevent damage;
5) Preparing a Community Flood Action Plan to guide emergency services and agencies with key information and local knowledge in a single document for ease of reference.
In parallel, the Parish Council acting in its role as a statutory consultee on all planning applications, raises awareness of the flooding and drainage constraints in Wye and promotes flood mitigation measures. However the Parish Council objects strongly to applications that will make the existing flooding problems worse.
Wye Mill water meadows. A Flood Working Group working party de-silting the ditch from Harville Road in December 2019. Cllr Mike West is operating the excavator. The bed of this section of ditch across the water meadow is chalk bedrock, and groundwater emerging from this chalk feeds the river Great Stour, which becomes a chalk stream below Wye bridge.
Wye Flood Action Plan
The FWG members have written a combined Flood Action Plan for Harville Road and Bramble Lane. These areas are paricularly vulnerable to surface water flooding. The Parish Council has endorsed the draft document. When Kent County Council (KCC) also endorses this Plan it will be lodged with the relevant local government agencies to inform how they respond to emergency flood events, and prioritise routine maintenance matters.
These documents show the historic extent of flooding in the area, and the trigger levels for action based on local experience. Once KCC adopts the Wye Flood Action Plan, it can delegate authority to the Parish Council to act during a flood event. This could give the Parish Council the legal power needed to close roads without delay, and provide residents with equipment to deal with flood events.
Flood events pose a serious risk of death or injury to the general public, can leave families homeless, affect businesses and disrupt vital transport links to our community. The Parish Council encourages everyone to take an interest and support the Flood Group initiatives, even if their own home is not at risk. Please contact the Parish Clerk for information.
Flood Group Terms of Reference
Wye Flood Working Group: Terms of Reference
Water meadows by Wye Mill. These meadows have a vital role in river flood management as they are a temporary storage area for flood water. They also provide excellent 'early bite' grazing and wetland habitat. This land is particularly valuable as a winter feeding ground for birds.
Blue Pages flood products
Blue Pages: a directory of property flood products and services put together bt the National Flood Forum. This directory provides householders with practical advice on how to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses, and a wide range of products.
National Flood Forum Helpline: 01299 403055.