Local Flood Risk Strategy

We have created a draft local flood risk management strategy in partnership with the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water and through consultation with residents.

The development of the strategy follows severe floods in 2007 across the UK, including York, which affected over 55,000 homes and businesses causing over £3 billion worth of damage nationwide.

About our flood risk strategy

The strategy is a legal document which provides a framework for addressing flood risk and links to existing key information in six guidance documents.

The development, maintenance and implementation of a strategy for the management of local flood risk are statutory duties we have, as a lead local flood authority under the flood and water management act 2010.

Our local flood risk management strategy defines how we, in partnership with other organisations who also have statutory roles, will seek to manage flood risk across our area. The strategy focuses on flood risk from all sources, rivers, surface runoff, ordinary and groundwater.

The strategy sets out our aims and objectives for managing flood risk and provides the approach for identifying and prioritising the specific measures which should be undertaken by all partners to reduce the risk of flooding.

The strategy provides details of the programme and costs of all actions required to achieve these aims.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Why are we producing a local flood risk management strategy ?

A: Following the flood and water management Act 2010 we became a lead local flood authority with responsibility for managing flood risk from surface runoff, ordinary watercourses and groundwater. Under the Act we are required to produce a local flood risk management strategy.

The strategy looks wider than our core responsibilities and considers flood risks from all sources and defines the actions we will take, in partnership with others, to manage flood risk in York.

Q: How does this document link into other plans and policies ?

A: There are a number of existing plans and policies which link into the Strategy and provide a key evidence base. The strategy is consistent with these plans and policies and it reinforces previous work we have undertaken. We have previously produced a surface water management and a preliminary flood risk assessment.

The strategy builds upon information from these previous studies. In addition, the strategy links strongly to our strategic flood risk assessment and reinforces the policies in the emerging local plan.

Q: What are our roles and responsibilities ?

A: Different organisations have responsibilities for managing flooding depending on the source of flooding, however, in many instances flooding is caused by water from multiple sources.

For people who suffer from the effects of flooding, the source of flooding is not their main concern. Therefore, as the lead local flood authority' we will take a leadership role in response to flooding with our partners.

The organisations with responsibility for managing different sources of flooding are outlined below:

  • City of York Council – surface runoff, ordinary watercourses, groundwater and highway drainage
  • The Environment Agency – main rivers and the sea
  • Internal Drainage Boards – drainage and flooding of ordinary watercourses within their defined low lying areas
  • Yorkshire Water – flooding from the public sewer network
  • riparian owners (people who own land along the banks of watercourses) – ensuring a proper flow of water through any watercourse, including drains and culverts, on their land

Q: What is our current strategy ?

A: Our flood management responsibilities are primarily defined in four areas:

  • responsibility for the provision and management of highway drainage and roadside ditches (Highways Act 1980)
  • responsibility for planning and preparing response to emergencies, which include flooding (Civil Contingencies Act 2004)
  • responsibility for assessing flood risk from surface runoff, ordinary watercourses and groundwater (Flood Risk Regulations 2009 and EU Floods Directive 2007)
  • responsibility for managing flood risk from surface runoff, ordinary watercourses and groundwater (Flood and Water Management Act 2010) – a range of new duties and powers, including producing a strategy, investigating flooding incidents and maintaining an asset register, amongst others

Q: When will you be updating the strategy ?

A: Following this consultation the Strategy will be finalised and then fully reviewed in line with the six year flood risk regulations cycle and any revisions will be considered following new data or real event information, it is intended that changes and updates to the individual guidance notes (sections three to eight) would be agreed and endorsed through the relevant committee, scrutiny or member decision making session, any changes or updates to the policy framework or strategic action plan would be brought to the local councillors cabinet committee for approval.

Q: What is the difference between a 'main river' and an 'ordinary watercourse' ?

A: A watercourse is any natural or artificial channel above or below ground through which water flows, main rivers are those classified on the official Environment Agency main river map, these include the main arterial watercourses in York; rivers Ouse, Foss etc. All watercourses that are not main rivers are known as ordinary watercourses.

Q: Who has ownership and responsibility for maintaining ditches and watercourses ?

A: The Environment Agency, the council and internal drainage boards carry out works to reduce flood risks across a wide range of watercourses and ditches in the council area. However, ultimate responsibility for clearing ditches and watercourses lies with the landowner who owns the banks of the watercourse, also known as the riparian owner. Riparian owners have a duty to ensure that the proper flow of water is not impeded, by debris or other blockages. The Environment Agency has produced a guide outlining the rights and responsibilities of riparian owners. The “Living on the edge” guide can be found on their website

Q: How do you propose to fund flood risk management work ?

A: Local drainage works are included within our drainage works programme, which is funded from our internal budget. Larger schemes that benefit a wider area require funding from a range of sources, most likely partially or wholly funded by central government funding or local (flood) levy funding from the regional flood and coastal committee.

However, due to changes to the way central government allocates funding there is potentially a need to raise significant additional local contributions. Securing local contributions will need to be undertaken on a case by case basis. Further information on funding sources is available in section two of the strategy.  

Q: Why are many of the actions spread over a long period of time ?

A: We believe the current programme of actions is realistic given resource and funding constraints, all partners need to develop data and appraisal documents to identify need and secure funding. Funding for flood risk management schemes nationally is stretched and demand far outstrips available funds. It is essential that we build detailed and robust business cases to attract funding.

Q: What actions will you be taking in communities that are not currently protected?

A: The programme of flood defence building in the 1980s and 1990s has left many areas of the city substantially protected from river flooding, however, there are a range of areas that were not protected and the existing defences will need to be improved to withstand the impacts of climatic change.

We are working closely with the Environment Agency and the section two of the strategy outlines the investigations, studies and works that may be required over the lifespan of the Strategy. This amounts to more than £25m of funding but this funding is not secured and is likely to require further local contributions to allow works to progress. Works to reduce the impacts of flooding from surface water are prioritised and localised schemes are delivered from our revenue budget, where schemes are significant further external funding is sought.

Q: How often do you clean the road gullies ?

A: The highway network under our control is cleansed annually, all other gullies are cleaned reactively. Some gullies are too compact with debris or mud for the gully cleaning vehicle and require to be dug out by hand and are passed on for more detailed actions and investigations.

Q: Is my gully blocked ?

A: Water pooling over a gully does not always mean the gully is blocked with debris etc. During heavy rainfall river or sewer levels can be high, reducing the ability for gullies to discharge water from the highway. Furthermore, gullies are designed to only cope up to a certain level of rainfall, and if the rainfall is too intense, pooling water on the road will happen. Usually this water will eventually drain away quickly if the drains are actually free of debris.

A common problem is also leaf litter resting on the grill stopping water entering the gully. Keeping gullies free of leaves can make a significant impact on the performance of the drainage system.

Q: How will you make sure that development will not result in increased flood risk to communities downstream ?

A: Our strategic flood risk assessment already ensures that new developments are built in a way that is resilient and resistant to flooding but also incorporate measures that manage any increase in surface water or sewage flows on site. This ensures that ‘downstream’ adjacent communities are not put at an increased flood risk.

This is consistent with the requirements of the national planning policy framework and is a key consideration by our Planning Committee. The emerging local plan will include policies that support and deliver these requirements.

Q: What is our understanding of current and future flood risk?

A: We have a very good understanding of the risks from the main rivers and watercourses in the city and through the construction of flood defences in the 1980s and 1990s the risks are minimised for most, but not all parts of the city. Environment Agency river modelling, mapping and studies and our strategic flood risk assessment give us a good grounding on current and future risks associated with our rivers.

Surface water flood risk is not as well understood and a lot of the drainage system is incompletely mapped. We have completed a surface water management plan and we have surface water flood mapping which shows us the areas of greatest risk.

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