The Chairman of the Impact of Flooding in the District Task Group, Councillor R. Hunter, presented the group’s final report for Cabinet’s consideration. Members were advised that the group had aimed to bring forward proposals that would help to prepare the District for any future risks of flooding. A range of Officers had been interviewed during the review and the group’s proposals were based on the evidence that had been gathered. In particular, Councillor Hunter emphasised the group’s conclusion that developers needed to be encouraged to use the most advanced methods to prevent flooding and that this should be emphasised in the Local Plan. Councillor Hunter thanked the other members of the group who had participated in the review, Councillors A. Beaumont, S. Colella, C. Spencer and H. Rone-Clarke, for their hard work as well as the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services, Councillor M. Sherrey, for providing evidence. Officers were also thanked for their support, particularly the Democratic Services Officer, the Environmental Services Manager and the Senior Water Management Officer.
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services subsequently presented the Cabinet’s response to the Impact of Flooding in the District Task Group’s final report.
In response to the group’s first recommendation, which proposed that a business case should be prepared regarding the potential for two additional land drainage operatives to be employed in Bromsgrove, Cabinet was informed that the Senior Water Management Officer was in the process of preparing a maintenance plan covering both Council owned assets and partner’ assets. It was anticipated that this plan would provide accurate information about what resources were required to manage assets in the District moving forward. The North Worcestershire Water Management team and Bromsgrove District Council would be communicating with other organisations that owned assets in the District, including Worcestershire County Council and Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT), to establish how those organisations planned to fulfil their maintenance responsibilities in respect of their assets. As part of this process, opportunities to work in partnership would be discussed. The review work underpinning the plan had been ongoing for approximately 18 months and it was anticipated that this work would be completed by September 2021. In this context, Members were advised that this recommendation would not be accepted at this time.
In relation to the group’s second recommendation, which proposed a publicity campaign to raise the profile of the North Worcestershire Water Management service, Members were informed that responsibilities for land drainage were shared between a number of organisations. This included Worcestershire County Council, the North Worcestershire Water Management service, the Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water. Consequently, a publicity campaign that focused on the role of the North Worcestershire Water Management team would only provide a partial overview of the system. For this reason, Cabinet would be rejecting the recommendation. However, Cabinet was proposing that the Council should work with the North Worcestershire Water Management team to make sure that the Council’s website clarified responsibilities and provided accurate contact details. It was also noted that Members could help to raise the profile of the team in their communications with residents and local stakeholders. An example was provided of a local Facebook group that had been developed for Wythall, which the Senior Water Management Officer had visited and submitted information to, and it was agreed that further information about this group could be shared with Councillor Hunter, as Chairman of the Task Group, outside the meeting.
The third recommendation proposed that the responsible authorities should publish a timetable of road sweeping and gully cleaning across the District. In response, the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services explained that Bromsgrove District Council was responsible for road sweeping and Worcestershire County Council was responsible for gully emptying. Road sweeping was undertaken on a continuous basis and it would be difficult to publish a timetable as it would be impacted by machinery breakdowns, staff leave and sickness absence, abnormal weather conditions and emergency works. For these reasons, the recommendation would be rejected.
The group’s fourth recommendation related to an annual report to the Overview and Scrutiny Board, which the Board had the power to request. This was not, therefore, discussed at Cabinet.
The fifth recommendation consisted of three proposals. The first of these proposals called for stricter planning policies that would require all developers to consider the use of sustainable drainage facilities whilst the second proposed that this should include measures for watercourse enhancement and flood alleviation where necessary. In responding to these two proposals, the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services explained that these actions were planning issues and would need to be referred for consideration through the planning process. The third part of this recommendation suggested that the Council should adopt land related to water courses, subject to securing Section 106 funding. Cabinet was advised that, whilst the Council could seek to adopt land, this would be subject to agreeing a commuted sum for the maintenance. In addition, developers were under no obligation to transfer land or assets to the Council. Members were asked to note that Cabinet was due to receive a report in respect of the adoption of land in September 2021 and there would be further opportunities to discuss this subject then. In this context, this recommendation would be rejected.
The Cabinet’s response to the group’s proposals was briefly debated. Councillor Hunter expressed some disappointment that the group’s proposals had not been accepted at this stage. To some extent, it was commented that the response to these recommendations may have been shaped by the timing of the review, which was being reported back prior to Cabinet’s consideration of the findings in the review of assets and open spaces. However, it was proposed that in September, the Overview and Scrutiny Board could revisit the group’s findings alongside the report in respect of the adoption of open spaces and make further recommendations on this subject for Cabinet’s consideration.
RESOLVED that the Impact of Flooding in the District Task Group’s final report be noted.