Agenda item

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

Minutes:

The agenda item was introduced by the Flood Risk and Data Manager who took Members through the published presentation slides which included a summary of the work completed and key achievements on the two Strategies. The following key points were discussed:

 

  • Officers said that Community Engagement in this subject currently was and has always been difficult.  It was said to be the same situation across the world.  Officers were interested to know if scrutiny could help with this in any way.
  • A short discussion took place about the potential for flood defences to fail and how the Environment Agency and the Council were looking ahead to future scenarios and ‘future proofing’.  Examples were, if sea levels were to rise up much quicker than previously expected and the need to ‘embed resilience’ in Bristol. 
  • The Environment Agency’s approach was now understood to be more directed towards more nature-based solutions.  It was said that Bristol has a very ‘artificial’ City Centre and it was asked if nature could help.  Officers said that nature could help on many things but not all, for example not tidal effects.  The Council’s focus was currently on ‘greening’ the urban realm and to influence the potential flooding issues where it can. 
  • It was said that the ‘Avon area’ is working well in partnership to promote schemes and good practice e.g. Frome in South Gloucestershire was doing some good work which would also benefit Bristol.
  • Local Flood Wardens: drop-in sessions are happening but there was not enough traction.  It was said that people generally don’t get involved until something bad has happened.
  • Members said that Area Committees were still used for a variety of local issues and asked if there was enough up-to-date information about flood risks and potential community engagement opportunities being communicated to them.  It was said they were quite transport oriented but had previously undertaken some flood prevention planting and drainage projects that had been effective. Councillors thought it would be a good idea to contact them all again. 
  • Another Member said he wasn’t completely sure what is being asked of communities but he did think it would be good idea if flood risk officers wanted to come speak with them in his area (Brislington).  He said it was important to be clear about what was being asked of them.
  • A Member of the public who was present at the meeting said it was possible that officers were ‘missing a trick’ with community groups.  Adding that if officers were to draft some information most community groups would be happy to distribute it in their local areas. In their view people would be interested although they wouldn’t necessarily get straight on the phone but would find it interesting and it would raise a lot of awareness. This could be done across the city. 
  • River Avon Strategy: climate change assessments have meant officers have had to re-model the potential timelines and effects. 
  • All around the City there are lots of developments happening.  How are the Council discussing these with our neighbouring local authorities and do they have good communication channels in place? Officers replied that planning regulations are in general quite stringent, for example with rainfall; developers must to show no increase in levels of run-off.  The Council has representatives at developments to manage and control this. The regulations are constantly being monitored and reviewed. 
  • It was asked if the financial contributions from developers needed to contribute to more than run-off i.e. the impact of swell because cumulatively this must still be increased. Officers agreed there are very likely to be cumulative impacts. They also highlighted that in 2011, Defra had announced changes to the way funding would be allocated to flood and coastal defence projects.  It was said that there is a lot of property in the city centre that was vulnerable.  However, flood risk was in a much better place than it was in terms of funding and partnership work than it was previously.
  • It was suggested that Temple Quarter needed to be looked at strategically rather than as individual developments so as to protect the existing property as well as future developments. 
  • It was asked if it would be more helpful if the Temple Quarter area was restored as a marsh instead.  Officers said that they had previously considered strategic water storage i.e. using the harbour as a type of overflow ‘sink’.  But it was concluded that it was very unlikely to work and it thought that using the marsh probably wouldn’t help either.
  • One Member said that there had previously been discussions on installing tidal barriers; was this still a viable option?  Officers said this option was still on the table but the costs would be very high.  It would be a huge challenge especially taking into consideration the number of environmental issues that would also need to be overcome. 

 

Supporting documents: