A RENEWED commitment to continue to reduce the impact of flooding on communities has been promised by Malvern Hills District Council to mark the tenth anniversary of the devastating floods.
The district was subject to extensive flash and river flooding when about a month’s worth of rainfall fell in just a few hours on Friday, 20 July 2007.
Upton-upon-Severn and Tenbury Wells were particularly affected areas with the Environment Agency recording the highest level on the River Teme at Tenbury since 1924 – 15 times normal summer levels.
About 800 properties across the district were damaged by the flooding and businesses were left with the significant task of rebuilding their livelihoods.
The council’s response was both immediate and long-term.
Restart grants totalling £35,000 were given by the council to 75 businesses to help get them back up and running while financial support in the form of Council Tax exemptions was offered to residents unable to return to their properties.
Some £32,000 alone was spent supporting 55 families who were still unable to return to their homes over a year after the floods had hit.
Councillors and officers also carried out two reviews to learn any lessons from the floods and a series of recommendations were made and implemented.
They included raising awareness of the responsibilities of landowners to clear and maintain culverts, watercourses and ditches on their land and taking appropriate action where they failed to do so.
Coun Bronwen Behan, portfolio holder for environment on Malvern Hills District Council, said: “None of us will ever forget the terrible events of July 2007.
“Protecting our communities from flooding remains a priority in our Five Year Plan and while we’ve learned a lot over the last decade.
“We can never completely eliminate the risk of such an event happening again.
“As we mark this anniversary we must renew our determination to ensure we do everything we can to protect people as much as possible from the devastating impact of flooding.”
Over the last decade, the council’s land drainage officers have inspected hundreds of kilometres of watercourses and ditches with 42km inspected in the last 12 months alone.
The authority has also worked with the Environment Agency to develop flood defence schemes and lobby for funding from the Government.
This has resulted in a £4.6million scheme to install permanent flood barriers in Upton, which opened in 2012.
About £2.2million was also invested in a flood defence scheme in the village of Kempsey which also opened in 2012.
Permanent flood defence schemes have also been installed at Powick, costing £800,000 and Uckinghall costing £1.1million.
Mark Bowers, Environment Agency’s flood risk manager, said: “The anniversary is a reminder of the devastating impacts flooding can have on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“In the last 10 years, we have taken huge strides to better protect thousands of homes and businesses by investing more than £11.7 million in new flood risk management schemes in Worcestershire.
“We also worked more closely with partners, councils and communities to forecast, prepare for and respond to the threat of flooding.
“But it’s important to remember that every flood is different and there’s no such thing as 100 per cent protection.”
The council is continuing to work with the Environment Agency, Tenbury Town Council and West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin to find funding for a flood defence scheme for the River Teme.
Significant effort has also been made to encourage residents to install their own flood defences to reduce the impact of flooding on their property.
Grants totalling more than £227,000 have been provided to 150 homes and businesses in Tenbury and Upton as part of the Government backed Repair and Renew scheme.
Residents are also being urged to sign up to the Environment Agency’s flood alerts and recently the council installed a community water gauge at Dick Brook to create an early flood warning system, with 11 properties signing up.
More than 100 people also visited an awareness raising day in Upton at the end of June where a number of organisations, including the Flood Advisory Service, attended to give advice to residents on further reducing the risk of flooding.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin concluded: “I spent a lot of time with local people in 2007 who had been affected by flooding and the sudden summer rain was devastating for so many people.
“There are still homes which are affected both in Upton and in other parts of West Worcestershire so it is important to have events like these to celebrate our achievements but also to keep the issue in the minds of local people.
“I will continue to press for permanent schemes in areas like Tenbury and Severn Stoke and support efforts to encourage people to use individual property protection measures where necessary to reduce the impact of major flooding.”
Residents are urged to check their flood risk by signing up to the warnings at www.gov.uk/flood or calling 0345 988 1188.