The true cost of Worcestershire's floods can be revealed - £640,000

Malvern Gazette: An image of flooded Worcester last month An image of flooded Worcester last month

THE true cost of Worcestershire's flooding can today be revealed - with the total bill burning through £640,000 of taxpayers' money.

The final figure for dealing with last month's chaotic river levels includes around £380,000 for cleaning up the mess left behind and more than £260,000 on compensating the homes and businesses crippled by the freak weather.

Your Worcester News can also reveal:

- 108 homes and 55 businesses were flooded, with Worcestershire County Council saying the tally would have been far, far higher were it not for the flood defences

- The Environment Agency has ruled out dredging the River Severn, saying it would cost too much money and bring "very little benefit"

- The county council has revealed funding of £1.5 million will be available next year for more flood defences and other alleviation work across Worcestershire

- Ground water levels are so high after the winter, experts say Worcestershire is "not out of the woods yet" and flash floods are likely if we get a wet summer

The costs of the flooding were revealed during a Q&A session at Worcestershire County Council involving expert staff and Dave Throup, from the Environment Agency.

The clean-up operation, which is still ongoing, is likely to cost around £380,000 and the council's Conservative leadership has stumped up a £200,000 kitty to offer grants to businesses affected by the flooding.

Once you factor in a £50,000 pot provided by Worcester City Council to help flood victims and around £12,500 from Malvern Hills District Council for its residents, it means the total cost to the public purse has hit £642,500.

It does not include the costs of providing the shuttle bus over Worcester Bridge, which had to be closed, nor the 'lost' income to retailers by people using the shops less.

It also excludes the bill for having the military arrive in Worcester, which the Government paid for.

In 2007 4,500 homes flooded, but since then the county council has pumped £12.5 million into new defences and other mitigation work like raised banks, which has been widely credited with this year's turnaround.

During the debate Ian Bamforth, highways and countryside manager at the council, said: "Clearly, we're all aware of the impact it had across the county, at the River Severn, Upton, Bewdley and Kempsey.

"It's important to recognise there's been significant success with flooding alleviation - despite the river levels, in many areas the defences worked and homes were not flooded."

But he warned politicians that Worcestershire could face more flooding this summer if the weather repeats itself.

"Thankfully the water levels have fallen substantially but the ground water levels are still saturated and that means a modest amount of rainfall could bring flash flooding," he said.

"We're not out of the woods yet, it could take a number of months to get back to normal."

DREDGING IS NOT THE ANSWER, SAYS DAVE THROUP

DREDGING the River Severn has been ruled out by the Environment Agency, which has insisted it would cost too much and bring too little benefit.

Christian Wilcox and Dave Throup, who both dealt with the flooding impact on Worcestershire, took part in the debate and said they'd had lots of people ask them about dredging in recent weeks.

But the duo told councillors the River Severn is too narrow a watercourse, and has big obstacles like Worcester Bridge, which would render the tactic ineffective.

It is the first time officials from the agency have voiced an opinion on dredging in the county.

Mr Wilcox said: "Dredging any watercourse will reduce flood risk, but while it could bring minor benefits it's not the best use of public money.

"In Worcester the river course is quite tight, there's a bridge and houses either side, and we think there's better ways to reduce flooding."

Mr Throup said "the actual difference it would make is very small", backing him up.

He also said the shock cuts to the Environment Agency are still going ahead after it was "on pause" during the floods.

Around 1,700 jobs are due to go by October and the revenue budget is being slashed by £29 million, around five per cent of the total spend.

Mr Throup said the capital budget could be going up 10 per cent, so it's not all doom and gloom.

"It's a changing picture at the moment, we will have budget reductions but we don't know how it'll impact yet," he said.

During the debate all councillors widely praised the efforts to minimise the impact on people.

Councillor Ken Pollock said: "In general it's been brilliantly handled, there's no doubt the overall judgment has to be entirely positive."

A £1.5M PACKAGE REVEALED FOR MORE FLOOD DEFENCES

MORE money is being stumped up to help protect Worcestershire from floods - with £1.5 million up for grabs.

The county council, which has invested £12.5 million into defences and other alleviation measures since 2007, says despite massive budget pressures flooding protection must remain vital.

The money will be earmarked on new "priority" projects to protect homes and businesses over the next 12 months.

It was announced after Councillor Richard Udall, chairman of the overview, scrutiny and performance board, said he was concerned about public sector cuts.

"One major concern to me is the cuts, not only to the Environment Agency but our own budget, we need clarity over what we're doing to respond to similar weather events," he said.

Ian Bamforth, highways and countryside manager, said the £12.5 million had been spent on around 700 different projects to reduce flooding.

"That investment has been significant but there's another £1.5 million in the pot for next year," he said.

"We'll be looking at how we spend it carefully, we need to use it up prudently, prioritising homes and businesses - we'll see what it brings."

Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "We have continued to invest in our infrastructure to build up resilience and moving forward, we've got to assess what we do next.

"We've invested just shy of £13 million since 2007 but we know there is more work to be done."

Some of the investment in recent years includes flood defences at Powick and Kempsey, and a raised bank along Hylton Road in Worcester.

With most individual investments funds tend to be matched with other bodies, like the Environment Agency.

Comments (2)

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2:48pm Mon 17 Mar 14

Marant says...

There was I thinking that we could do with creating some more flood storage areas to replace the areas lost due to development on the flood plain.

So I got my calculator out and figured that if we lowered the ground near to the pump house by 1m, we could make a storage lagoon of 18,000 cubic metres or more. Which could store 18,000 tonnes of water in the next flood.

Which sounded great until I remembered David Throup saying that the river was carrying 580m3 a second at the height of the flood - so that little lot would fill up in about 31 seconds. Plus we'd have 18,000m3 of topsoil to dispose of (anyone need any for the garden?)

So, really, it's got to be the beavers. It's the only way. Get the beavers back and let them dam up the headwaters. Slow down the flow and hold back the water. :)
There was I thinking that we could do with creating some more flood storage areas to replace the areas lost due to development on the flood plain. So I got my calculator out and figured that if we lowered the ground near to the pump house by 1m, we could make a storage lagoon of 18,000 cubic metres or more. Which could store 18,000 tonnes of water in the next flood. Which sounded great until I remembered David Throup saying that the river was carrying 580m3 a second at the height of the flood - so that little lot would fill up in about 31 seconds. Plus we'd have 18,000m3 of topsoil to dispose of (anyone need any for the garden?) So, really, it's got to be the beavers. It's the only way. Get the beavers back and let them dam up the headwaters. Slow down the flow and hold back the water. :) Marant
  • Score: 1

10:03am Tue 18 Mar 14

green49 says...

Mr Wilcox said: "Dredging any watercourse will reduce flood risk, but while it could bring minor benefits it's not the best use of public money.

Tell that to the folks who have been flooded this time, i remember the dredgers and it dooes work but with weather patterns changing isnt it time we had tempoary areas we could fill as lakes when it gets serious? we probably do have some but we need a major rethink now or we will have to build all houses on stilts.
Mr Wilcox said: "Dredging any watercourse will reduce flood risk, but while it could bring minor benefits it's not the best use of public money. Tell that to the folks who have been flooded this time, i remember the dredgers and it dooes work but with weather patterns changing isnt it time we had tempoary areas we could fill as lakes when it gets serious? we probably do have some but we need a major rethink now or we will have to build all houses on stilts. green49
  • Score: 1

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