Agenda item

Bristol Local Flood Risk Management Strategy, including River Avon Flood Strategy Update


The Flood Risk Manager introduced the item to Members and confirmed that this was the annual update to the Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Commission on progress with our Local Flood Risk Management Strategy, with a focus on the Avon Flood Strategy project. Officers were seeking Scrutiny’s advice and feedback on their progress to date and next steps. 


The Commission’s views were also sought on how officers can work closer with communities to raise awareness of the flood risks posed to the city, as well as wider resilience issues. It was noted from many examples across the country that show engagement is low until an event occurs.  Officers confirmed they have struggled in the past to engage with local people on this.  This was perhaps because Bristol hasn’t experienced a major emergency /incident for a number of years.  Officers were keen to discuss how the strategy can be used to raise awareness and advocate a more proactive approach.  Officers explained the summary of works completed and how the flood defences that had been used and were successful. 


The following points were discussed and questions asked:


  • The two major sources of flood risk for Bristol i.e. tidal and fluvial.  Members were told that there are now a number of tunnels in place that would help to prevent a repeat of the 1968 floods but there is still more preventative work that can be done.
  • River Avon Flood Strategy: is one part of a much broader strategy although it is a considerable part.  
  • Officers said that Bristol has been lucky to-date but they want to proactively manage risks.
  • The Natural Streets Approach; which reduces surface level flooding is good for biodiversity and traffic management.  Officers recommended that more of these are built. 
  • Members asked about the Harbour operation and if this could provide any solutions.  This was however already being used to its full capacity. 
  • Tidal flood waters; Members were told that it’s not possible to hold it back up-stream as there is not enough storage.
  • It has been concluded that dredging rivers can actually makes things worse by allowing larger volumes of water to enter the water ways at a faster rate. 
  • A tidal barrier and river front defences and public realm are currently being looked at.
  • Officers asked for any advice on how they can spread messages out in the community.  It was suggested that now that Neighbourhood Partnerships were no longer in existence they focus on community groups that either show an interest or on those with an environmental emphasis.  Members said they were happy to be contacted about local groups in their wards
  • It was asked if the strategy had been delayed in any way as officers were exploring bigger projects and had the strategy changed.  It was said that there weren’t any changes and that they were currently undertaking feasibility assessments. 
  • A Member said that he had followed the progress of the strategy closely for a number of years and that even though communities hadn’t really engaged in the process, there were risks and threats now more than before.  And that given their positions, the potential developments at Cumberland Basin and St Philips in his view gave further cause for concern.  Officers said that holistic solutions would be built in to the strategy and any potential schemes at every stage and that these would be well-thought-out before any building could be considered.
  • A member suggested using the term ‘climate emergency’ to encourage more people to engage. 
  • It was also suggested that if there are health implications then Public Health and schools should be involved.
  • Members said that the Flood Risk Management Strategy was on their radar so to speak and that there is enthusiasm to keep it on their agenda and for scrutiny to play a constructive and challenging role.  It was suggested that in light of potential developments a discussion should take place to identify when this should be brought back to the commission. ACTION: for the Bristol Local Flood Risk Management Strategy to be included on the 2019/2020 Scrutiny Work Programme


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