We've 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.

Our Flood Risk Management 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.

Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, as a lead local flood authority we have a statutory duty to develop, maintain and implement a strategy for the management of local flood risk. 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.

Our strategy focuses on flood risk from all sources, such as:

  • rivers
  • surface runoff
  • groundwater
  • ordinary watercourses

Our strategy sets out our:

  • aims and objectives for managing flood risk
  • priorities and actions for all partners to reduce the risk of flooding

The strategy provides details of our flood risk management programme and costs required to achieve our aims. It considers flood risks from all sources and defines the actions we will take, in partnership with others, to manage flood risk in York.

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 reinforces previous work we've undertaken, such as a surface water management.

In addition, the strategy links to our strategic flood risk assessment and reinforces the policies in our emerging Local Plan.

Our roles and responsibilities in reducing local flood risk

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

As the lead local flood authority, we take a leadership role in response to flooding with our partners.

Different sources of flooding are managed by different organisations:

  • City of York Council – surface runoff, ordinary watercourses, groundwater, 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

Our current flood management strategy

Our flood management responsibilities are defined in the following four areas:

'Main rivers' and 'ordinary watercourses'

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, such as the rivers Ouse and Foss. All watercourses that are not main rivers are known as ordinary watercourses.

Ownership and responsibility for maintaining ditches and watercourses

The Environment Agency, the council and Internal Drainage Boards carry out works to reduce flood risk 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. Read more about the rights and responsibilities of owning a watercourse from the Environment Agency.

Road gully cleaning

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

Water pooling over a gully does not always mean the gully is blocked with debris. 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, water pooling on the road will happen. Water will usually eventually drain away quickly if the drains are 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.

When we'll be updating our strategy

Our strategy will be finalised and 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.

How we propose to fund flood risk management

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 could potentially be 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.

We believe the current programme of actions is realistic given resource and funding constraints, as 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.

Minimising flood risk in communities that aren't currently protected

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 have not been protected; therefore existing defences will need to be improved to withstand the impacts of climate change.

We're working closely with the Environment Agency - 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, however 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.

Minimising flood risk from new developments to communities downstream

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. Our emerging Local Plan will include policies that support and deliver these requirements.

Current and future flood risk

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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