The report into January’s flooding across Thurrock has finally arrived…

Many residents in Thurrock will not forget the flooding the borough suffered back in January. These are the posts we wrote about what, from our point of view from a neighbourhood badly hit by the flooding, was basically a clusterf**k:

Draw your own conclusions… – January 30, 2021

(Almost) the right homes but – on the WRONG site! – January 24, 2021

Stretched… – January 19, 2021

After the flood…the questions… – January 16, 2021

A lack of joined up thinking = a clusterf**k! – January 14, 2021

Okay, that’s a lot of posts over a short period about one issue but as we had a pretty narrow escape from having a flooded house, please forgive us if we take it personally! Not long after these floods, Thurrock Council said they would be preparing a report on what caused the flooding and what measures could be brought in to deal with similar situations in the future. Well it’s now out… It will be presented to the council’s planning, transportation and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee tonight (Tuesday 6.7). This is how it is being covered in the local media: Natural events blamed for Thurrock floods – with Environment Agency and council playing down concerns about mechanical failures, roadwork impact and more houses. But a new action plan is in place and £3 million will be spent on defences. And you can download the full report from here. Right, we’ll get this downloaded, printed out and that’s our bedtime reading sorted out for a few nights!

The comments we’re making in this piece are an initial reaction. They’re based on the (in our opinion) accurate coverage in the Thurrock Nub News piece linked to above. Once we’ve read the report thoroughly, we will be commenting further and in depth. These conclusions may well end up getting posted up on our sister blog, The Estuary Stirrer.

It would seem that Thurrock Council are saying that the flooding was the result of the months of December and January being the wettest recorded in the region in a hundred years. It was certainly wet. The rain in January was falling on ground that was already waterlogged. Any excess water had no where to go so flooding was inevitable. That much is true.

However, there are always exacerbating factors and our gut feeling from reading the Thurrock Nub News piece is that they’ve been downplayed.

In Stanford-le-Hope, they were the long running A13 widening works and the new home building in the area. A fair number of locals are convinced that the A13 widening works have drastically altered the way surrounding land in the area drains, thereby exacerbating the flooding risk. The new homes are putting the existing sewerage and drainage systems under extra pressure. One new development at Stanford Meadows is on flat, low lying ground adjacent to a stream. The two ponds constructed by the developer on the eastern fringe of the development by the stream simply couldn’t cope with the amount of water and overflowed. New housing is planned for a site on the eastern side of the railway on land bounded by another stream that runs behind Victoria Road. Part of this site gets waterlogged every winter and is to all intents and purposes, on a flood plain.

As for the flooding over in Bulphan, that was down to a faulty sluice gate leading to floodwater backing up along much of the Mar Dyke valley and basin.

Any report on flooding has to take a holistic overview. We know it’s easy to say this from behind a keyboard and appreciate that such an overview would entail a lot of work and deep thinking. Such a report may well come up with conclusions that put the council and other authorities and agencies under an unwelcome spotlight. So be it. Any report that skirts around awkward issues such as inadequate planning processes and leaves residents at risk of future flooding is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

The report says that an Action Plan will be created to deal with future flooding events. These involve things such as better and more advanced warning to residents of impending flood risks. Also mentioned are improvements to co-ordination between the council and other relevant authorities and agencies. These recommendations are obviously welcome but by and large, they tend to be reactive.

Okay, there are some proactive recommendations – they are:

  • Where appropriate, engage with communities to develop community flood plans – e.g. Bulphan.
  • Ensure greater integration of flood risk matters into the Local Plan and future development.
  • Investigate and undertake enforcement action to prevent future flood risk.

There’s also this which is pretty positive:

“Within Thurrock, the project is split into three parts, the upper catchments of both the Mardyke, and watercourse systems in Stanford le Hope which feed into Mucking Creek – using “Natural Flood Management” techniques to hold water flows upstream so that capacity further downstream is extended. Within the mid-catchment – working with the community to store rainwater for communal uses or delay its flow through the surface water system by exploring concepts such as rainwater harvesting for use in toilets.”

After the floods when we were discussing the events and issues with the neighbours, undertaking work in the upper catchments to stem the flow of water was something we thought would be worthwhile. So, it’s gratifying to see it mentioned in the report:)

Overall, our initial view is that the report is patchy. There are issues that should have been confronted and dealt with – instead, they were evaded. On the other hand, there are some useful, albeit possibly piecemeal recommendations. To summarise, it’s a tentative step in the right direction but more work needs to be done. Most importantly, input from the residents is an absolute must.

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