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Report into floods is ‘just the beginning’ says West Sussex leader

THE leader of West Sussex County Council has said a multi-agency report into the June floods published today (December 13) is ‘just the beginning’.

A series of key issues have been highlighted in the report,commissioned to look into the reasons behind major flooding in parts of the county.

The multi-agency report said many drainage systems were ‘overwhelmed’ by the scale of the weather, described as a ‘once in 200-year’ event, with 192 per cent above average rainfall between April and September and 400 per cent in June.

“Modern surface water systems are generally designed to frequencies of 25 to 100 years,” said the report.

“Consequently, not unexpectedly, many systems were overwhelmed causing flooding in vulnerable low areas.”

It goes on to say the events of June 10 and 12 highlighted various weaknesses in both the management of drainage and its infrastructure. “Some of these are in the process of being resolved, others will require further detailed work or investigation,” it said.

The report lists drainage works and investigations already carried out since June with 231 drainage improvements carried out as well as jetting of 174 drains and CCTV surveys of drainage systems.

It was compiled by a multi-agency group including West Sussex County Council, the Environment Agency, Southern Water, Worthing Borough Council and Chichester and Arun District Councils.

Worst hit

The report said the worst of the weather was between Worthing and the West Sussex border with Hampshire.

The highest rainfall was recorded in the Bognor Regis and Chichester areas.

Littlehampton was also badly affected.

An estimated 780 properties were flooded with some families still waiting to return to their homes.

Among the key issues and actions detailed in the report are:

Identify responsibility for all elements of the drainage infrastructure – a register is already being developed.

To build on the work of the National Flood Forum and encourage more community action groups to assist in the management of drainage matters.

Launch an information campaign on the importance of drainage and individual responsibilities.

Extreme

The report said publicly owned drainage systems should be maintained and upgraded where there is a clear deficiency, but adds the June event was so “extreme that even well designed and maintained systems failed to cope with the volume of water.”

Including detailed maps and photographs, the report takes an in-depth look at the various individual areas which were most affected with individual recommendations and future actions.

In a foreword, county council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “This report is the beginning of an on-going process which the county council will continue to drive.

“Whilst it does not hold all the answers to the problems that occurred in June, it does set out what needs to be done and the challenges that we all face and will only resolve through working together.”

Speaking after publication of the report, she added: “Essentially, it was just the sheer scale of unprecedented torrential rain that overwhelmed some of the systems maintained by the various agencies.

“This once in 200-year event stretched our infrastructure and the emergency services to the very limit.

“I want to reassure people that all the agencies involved will not let the focus on drainage issues slip, and are working together to ensure that we do as much as we can to protect homes and businesses.

“The events of June were a very traumatic time for a large number of people, some of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and that is a key reason for this in-depth report.”

The flood report will be published later today on the county council’s website.

It will also be considered over the coming months by West Sussex County Council’s county local committee meetings, which meet in public.

Parish councils are also being invited to study it at their future meetings.

Mrs Goldsmith said: “I know the report has been concentrating on the events of June, but the risk of flooding is ever present.

“I would urge people to be vigilant, check if they are at risk, sign-up for flood warnings, and follow the advice on our website and that of our partners such as the Environment Agency, and ensure that they have made provision to protect their properties.”

 

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