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A Short History of Bodenham Flood Protection Group

20 July 2007

In June and July 2007 the country suffered heavy rainfall which left the ground saturated and resulted in widespread flooding in many areas. Bodenham did not escape and on 20 July 2007 a torrential downpour led to St Michael’s Church and some 40 residential properties – mostly in Bodenham Moor - being flooded by water running off the surrounding hills. This was an emergency which need not – and should not – have happened. The River Lugg was not in spate at the time and was not responsible for the damage. Quite simply that was caused by flash flooding when heavy rainfall was prevented from escaping to the river by blocked and inadequate drains and culverts. This was compounded by the lack of sandbags and the mallocation of such stocks as were available, together with the unpreparedness of individual householders to cope with an unexpected incident of this kind.

Bodenham floods - 2007As a result of this flooding Bodenham Parish Council held a public meeting on 22 January 2008 in the Parish Hall to hear and discuss what measures the local authorities would be taking to prevent a recurrence. This was chaired by Herefordshire Councillor Keith Grumbley and was attended by representatives of Herefordshire Council, the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board (RLIDB) and the Environment Agency, together with about 100 members of the public. (The Herefordshire Council Highway Authority were invited to attend, but instead submitted a statement which was read to the meeting).

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Formation and Role of the Group

It became apparent from this Meeting that, apart from the RLIDB which had already taken action to construct a relief channel at Millcroft Farm and to widen the Millcroft Brook there, the authorities did not have the resources to offer the Parish the assistance it required. At its monthly Meeting on 4 February 2008 the Parish Council therefore decided to take the initiative and to form a self-help group capable of carrying out the action necessary to monitor drains and watercourses, to keep them clear of debris and

Bodenham Flood Protection Group

to take other precautions, such as maintaining stocks of sandbags, identifying those residents who, owing to age or infirmity, would need help in an emergency, and establishing contact with the National Flood Forum and with other local organisations.

This self-help group, the Bodenham Flood Protection Group (BFPG), was instituted as a sub-committee of the Parish Council and held a first informal meeting on 13 February 2008. After a number of monthly meetings it was formally established on 19 August 2008 and now has its own Constitution and its own funding (held within the Parish’s account), an elected committee representing each area of the Village and The Moor, and a membership of nearly 50 volunteers. It meets on the last Tuesday of every month, with the exception of December, and its meetings (which are regularly attended by about 30 members, but are also open to the public) are formally minuted, the Minutes being published on the Parish Website and passed to the Parish Clerk to form part of the Parish’s records. A report on the Group’s activities is also presented to the Parish Council at each of the latter’s monthly meetings.

The real work of the Group is, however, carried out at working party sessions during which members gather to carry out such tasks as clearing drains and culverts, removing silt build up around flap valves, cutting back vegetation encroaching on watercourses, and filling sandbags. These sessions, which are normally attended by at least 12-15 members, are usually held every alternate Friday evening from 6.00 p.m. onwards when daylight allows, i.e. between April and October. Sessions are, of course, held at other times, should the need arise. Additional photographs of the Group’s members at work are at (click here)

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Making Progress

In its first year of existence the Parish Council helped the BFPG to establish itself with the money required to buy the tools which it needs for its working parties (spades, mattocks, buckets, drainage rods, waders, etc.). This also gave members time to make the Group self-sufficient by organising events such as coffee mornings and quiz nights, the proceeds going initially to repay the Parish Council’s loan and subsequently to cover such expenses as room hire for the Group’s meetings.

The BFPG was also fortunate in being helped by the Bodenham Community Charity which gave it two financial grants. This enabled the Group to fund the purchase of additional equipment, such as pumps, together with a trailer in which its equipment can be stored and transported. It also paid for the procurement of four metal cages in which filled sandbags are now stored ready for use at strategic points around the Village.

In addition, donations of sand were kindly made by Tarmac from its Wellington quarry, while the West Mercia Police Authority generously gave money for the purchase of safety items, such as high visibility vests, torches and first aid equipment.

Besides its working sessions the Group have done much to advise local residents of precautions which they can take to protect their houses, to help those who have seen their insurance premiums increased because of vulnerability to flooding, and to raise the awareness of local authorities of flooding-related issues in Bodenham. For example, several members of the BFPG attended the Herefordshire Council’s Flood Protection Seminar at the Courtyard in Hereford on 26 July 2008, where the Chairman of the Parish Council gave a short talk describing the action which Bodenham had taken to improve the Village’s flood precautions and resilience.

The Group has also raised two particular issues with Herefordshire Council. The first was the flood risk to residences in Orchard Close, Bodenham Moor. The second was the inability of the twin culverts under Millcroft Road at its junction with Ketch Lane (‘the Ketch Lane culverts’) to cope with flash flooding. A second public meeting was held in the Parish Hall on 17 October 2008 and this provided some 100 local residents with an opportunity to raise their concerns directly with Herefordshire Council Highways Authority. Next, the local Member of Parliament, Mr Bill Wiggin MP, was briefed on the situation. He visited Millcroft Farm on 23 October 2008 for a meeting with members of the BFPG’s Committee and subsequently visited Bodenham again on 5 June 2009 as part of his tour of flood-affected villages in his constituency.

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Main Challenges and their Solutions

Millcroft BankWith the help of the Highways Authority significant progress was subsequently made towards reducing the flood risk in Orchard Close, but the issue of the Ketch Lane culverts proved more intractable. The BFPG set about obtaining definitive evidence on what needed to be done in the medium to longer term to prevent further flooding emergencies occurring. In late 2008 the Group asked, Mr Rod Hawnt of Hydro-Logic Limited to investigate the cause of the main flooding which had affected the Village in 2007 - that from the Millcroft Brook - and to advise on what measures should be taken.

In January 2009 he reported that the Ketch Lane culverts were - as members of the Group had always suspected - too small to match the capacity of the channel upstream even in normal circumstances. He showed that, when the watercourse upstream of the culverts still has ample spare capacity because the Millcroft Farm relief channel has not even begun to operate, the culverts themselves are already surcharged. He added that the risk is compounded because the small diameter of these twin culverts means that they are prone to becoming blocked by large items of debris carried down the Brook, thus increasing the danger of flooding upstream.

Bodenham flooding - 2007He recommended that they should be replaced by “a new culvert, or bridge, to increase the discharge capacity under Ketch Lane, up to a design standard of a 1 in 100 year flood event.” (i)

A year later, in January 2010, Herefordshire Council commissioned another consultant hydrologist, Mr Brian Faulkner, to carry out studies of flood risks in some 20 locations across the County and to make recommendations on how these might be alleviated. The BFPG contributed data to this Study relating to the extent of the damage done to individual properties in July 2007 and its cost. Mr Faulkner submitted his Report in April 2010 and extracts relating to Bodenham were eventually made available to the Parish Council in January 2011. In these he assessed that the 2007 flood was “statistically between a 3.3% to 2% Annual Equivalent Probability (AEP) event, (1 in 30 to 1 [in] 50 probability) …” (ii) and that: “The option to Do Nothing is … an unlikely alternative.” (iii) He then went on to set out four possible schemes or options.

In the first of these he effectively supported Mr Hawnt’s earlier assessment by saying that: “Subject to detailed hydraulic analysis, we are of the view that replacement of the existing twin culvert at [the Millcroft Road/ Ketch Lane junction] might be a valuable ‘quick fix’. The structure is evidently prone to complete blockage, its alignment is poor, and it has the potential to elevate the backwater by at least 0.6m once water level reaches the road …”.

The issue was given added urgency on 8 January 2011 by the collapse of a section of the Brook’s wall at the same junction, apparently caused by vibrations from the heavy agricultural and commercial traffic using the road combined with the effects of water ingress and frost. The collapsed section was repaired by Amey Herefordshire over the Spring of 2011, but since it is only a few feet upstream of the older of the two culverts under the junction, and since the wall and that culvert appear to have been constructed at the same time, the strength of the culvert itself must also be called into question. Should it collapse, a very serious situation would be created.

Collapsed bank in Bodenham

In his Report Mr Faulkner turned next to the need for regular maintenance, including the “de-silting of all culverts, channel silt removal, [and] gully jetting”, as well as “riparian enforcement” (iv), along the Millcroft Brook from the River Lugg up to Brockington Road. He combined this work with the installation of the Ketch Lane box culvert as the second of his four possible schemes or options.

In his other third and fourth possible options Mr Faulkner suggested that, in addition to installing the Ketch Lane box culvert and instituting the regular watercourse maintenance regime, the risk of flooding could be further alleviated by constructing an upstream attenuation reservoir which would help to reduce the flow rate at the Brockington Road bridge. The cost of such a reservoir would, however, be nearly £1M, or more depending on its size, something which is clearly not attainable in the present financial climate.

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Property-Level Flood Protection – ‘Project Bodenham’

By 2010 it was already becoming apparent that Government policy was moving away from community-level flood defence schemes. The Environment Agency announced that it was making some £2million available to deliver a country-wide programme of individual household flood protection measures targetted on areas where properties are at a high risk of flooding. The funding was for items, such as automatically closing airbricks, non-return valves on drains and flood barriers for doors, which, at best, help to reduce the risk of flood water entering properties and, at worst, minimise the damage caused by flood water and reduce the length of time needed to repair a building and its contents. Herefordshire Council successfully applied for a grant from this fund for Cross Keys/ Withington in 2010-11, but Bodenham had to wait for another year.

On 12 May 2011 the Environment Agency announced that some £144,500 had been allocated in 2011-12 to help protect some 34 properties in the Parish. Work on what became referred to locally as ‘Project Bodenham’ started almost immediately. It was managed by Amey Herefordshire on behalf of Herefordshire Council, while the BFPG assumed the role of facilitators in the Project, doing its best to relieve Amey of as much of the administrative burden as possible by providing local knowledge, communication links between Amey and individual property owners, and an interface between the equipment manufacturers and individual residents. The aim of this was, first, to keep administrative costs down and thus ensure that as much as possible of the available funding was devoted to flood protection and, second, to make sure that the momentum of the Project was maintained. Given that across the country there were another 30 communities with similar grants competing for the attentions of the small number of equipment manufacturers, it was important that the Group ensured that it was at the head of the queue so that local residents’ equipment was installed before Christmas and not delayed into what could potentially be a harsh Winter. Furthermore, the Environment Agency had set 31 March 2012 as the date by which all work had to be completed and it was imperative that the BFPG did not find itself rushing to meet that deadline at the last minute.

Flood DefenderThe Project therefore became the main focus of the Group’s attention for the next 12 months. By Christmas 2011 good progress had been made and, thanks largely to excellent co-operation by the main supplier, UK Flood Barriers Limited, flood protection measures had been supplied to 26 out of the 34 properties identified as being eligible for a share in the grant. However, perhaps inevitably in a project of this size, completion of the remainder proved more difficult and frustrating.

As the Project had progressed it had become clear that the initial surveys carried out to establish which properties did, and did not, meet the Environment Agency’s criteria for funding did not always agree with the subsequent surveys carried out by UK Flood Barriers Limited. The original surveys appeared to have overlooked points of vulnerability in certain properties, to have excluded some other properties from the scheme altogether despite these having suffered damage in 2007, and to have caused uncertainty in still more cases by not being sufficiently clear and precise in their findings. (It has to be said that in a few cases the reluctance of property owners to admit that they had, in fact, been flooded at all also caused some confusion and delay). As a result a number of houses were identified which the Group believed should either be added to the list of eligible properties, or which were on that list but needed additional measures to complete their flood protection. The BFPG expressed its concerns to the Environment Agency and was extremely grateful when the Agency both agreed to provide some £16,000 in additional funding to cover this extra work and subsequently waived the 31 March deadline. In the event the final inspections which formally marked the end of the Project did not take place until 28 September and even then some issues remained to be resolved at two properties.

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Pride of Herefordshire Award

Pride of Herefordshire AwardIn the middle of ‘Project Bodenham’, while the Group’s attention was focussed inward on ensuring that local residents obtained the best possible value from the Environment Agency’s grant, all our efforts and hard work in previous years was given quite unexpected outside recognition. This came in September 2011 when the Group was short-listed as one of three nominees in the ‘Environmental Champions’ category of the 2011 Pride of Herefordshire Awards. The Chairman and Secretary attended the Awards ceremony in Hereford on 12 October 2011 and even more unexpectedly the BFPG were selected as the winners, with the Secretary collecting the trophy, certificate, a bottle of champagne and a cheque for £100.

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Flood Warning Telemetry System

Flood Warning Telemetry SystemAs if this award and the Environment Agency Grant were not enough, the ‘icing on the cake’ came when Mr Rod Hawnt of Hydro-Logic Limited announced that he was donating a state of the art flood warning telemetry system to the Parish. This was installed at the Brockington Road bridge on 9 May 2012 and was commissioned two days later. It subsequently proved its worth to the whole community in Bodenham Moor during several rain storms later in the year. None of these was severe enough to cause precautions to be taken – the Group’s maintenance work on the watercourses and the existence of the relief channel made sure of that – but on each occasion the telemetry system provided early warning that flash flooding was possible, alerted members to monitor the situation and subsequently gave reassurance that, contrary to appearances, flooding was not actually imminent and no action was needed.

The Parish Plan

Also in 2011, almost alone amongst the Parish’s clubs, societies and other groups, the BFPG made a submission to the development of the Parish Plan. In due course the Plan endorsed the Group’s recommendations that, first, the Parish Council should continue to press Herefordshire Council to discharge fully its responsibilities for the regular and complete maintenance of drains, culverts and watercourses across the Parish and, second, that a long term aim for the Parish should be to reduce the risk of flash flooding to Bodenham Moor by the replacement of the Ketch Lane culverts.

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Flood Protection Initiatives with the Wider Community

From the start of ‘Project Bodenham’ one of the Group’s concerns was that the benefits of flood protection should not be limited to those fortunate enough to be included in the Environment Agency’s scheme. For that reason the Group enlisted the help of Mrs Mary Dhonau, an independent flood protection consultant, in holding an open day on 13 September 2012 to which all residents in Bodenham were invited. At this they were able to see the kinds of flood protection equipment being supplied to properties under the terms of the Environment Agency’s grant and to decide whether or not they wished to purchase such items privately for themselves. Those who wanted to buy some of the smaller items were also able to take advantage of a bulk discount arranged by the BFPG with UK Flood Barriers Limited.

Spreading the flood protection messageThe Group also felt that the flood protection ‘message’ should be spread much wider than Bodenham alone. It therefore suggested to Herefordshire Council the need for a flood protection ‘open day’ which would be available to everyone across the County and, indeed, beyond. This initiative eventually came to fruition in an Exhibition organised by Mrs Dhonau and held in the Parish Hall on 7 November 2011, at which a number of firms were able to display their flood protection products to about 100 visitors. The event was jointly funded by Herefordshire Council and the Environment Agency and also acted as the launch of the 2012 Know Your Flood Risk Campaign. BFPG members provided refreshments, car parking and other administrative support throughout the day and it concluded in the evening with an Open Forum discussion on flood insurance - a subject of increasing concern bearing in mind that the present agreement between the Government and the insurance industry is due to end in 2013. This had an audience of a further 100 visitors.

Over the past two years the BFPG’s interactions with communities outside the Parish have not been limited to this Exhibition. The Group has been approached by several other parishes in Herefordshire interested in learning how it established itself and seeking advice on what self-help measures they might be able to adopt themselves. In the case of Brimfield & Little Hereford three BFPG representatives attended a meeting in their Parish Hall on 25 August 2011, at which the Group gave a presentation alongside talks from the Environment Agency and Amey Herefordshire. Some members of Brimfield Parish Council also visited one of the BFPG’s monthly meetings and witnessed one of its working party sessions. Finally, with the Environment Agency and Mrs Dhonau it was also represented at a meeting on 29 November 2011 at which Brimfield residents agreed to form a flood protection group, a decision which was endorsed by their Parish Council in January 2012 and has led, it is understood, to that group successfully starting its operations.

Finally under this heading, the Secretary of the BFPG was invited to attend a meeting of a Defra Steering Group in London on 10 January 2012 to discuss a draft report on the implementation of the first two phases of government investment in property-level protection across the country in 2009-10. Although this did not cover Bodenham, which was in the third phase, the Secretary was present to represent the point of view of communities and residents generally, which she did with her accustomed forcefulness.

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Public Relations

Public RelationsOn 11 May 2012 the Group received a visit from Jonathan Maitland and a team from ITV who were preparing a programme on climate change. They spent the afternoon filming the installation of flood protection measures at a property in Brockington Road by UK Flood Barriers Limited, where they met the CEO, Mrs Sarah Vaughan. Also in Brockington Road they met Mr Hawnt, who had just finished commissioning the flood warning telemetry system there. At The Forge they interviewed Mrs Dhonau on flood insurance issues and at Millcroft Farm Mr Maitland interviewed the Secretary at some length on the origins and work of the Group. The team were also introduced to the Chairman of the Parish Council, Cllr Derek Ling, and to our District Councillor, Cllr Jeremy Millar. Finally, they filmed the regular Friday evening work party session at the Ketch Lane culverts where Mr Maitland donned a set of waders and personally contributed to the removal of silt from the brook. In due course the results were shown on ITV’s Tonight programme on 17 May 2012.

The fifth anniversary of the July 2007 floods across the country also brought a flurry of press interest in the Group’s work. Articles appeared on the BBC Midlands website and in the National Association of Local Council’s magazine, while The Hereford Times featured one on the telemetry system.

Conclusion

The Group has been extraordinarily successful over the last few years. During them every member has made a significant contribution, whether by helping at a working party session, being an area representative, helping with the Group’s administration, organising one or more fund-raising events, making cakes, dispensing refreshments, doing the washing up, acting as a car parking attendant, donating an item for sale, or simply just turning up at an event or at monthly meetings to show support. They deserve the gratitude and thanks of the community.

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  1. Notes on Hydraulic Performance of Millcroft Brook on 13th December 2008 by Mr Rod Hawnt, Consultant Hydrologist, dated January 2009.
  2. Herefordshire Flood Alleviation Strategy - Preliminary Assessment Report dated April 2010, Paragraph 4.3.2, Lines 10-11.
  3. Ibid., Paragraph 4.3.4, Scheme 0, Line 2.
  4. Ibid., Table 4-3, Scheme Option 2, Design Details.

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