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					        Scrutiny of Hertfordshire
        County Council’s Land
        (March 2008)
        The Land Drainage Topic Group

For further information please contact:
Head of Scrutiny
Hertfordshire County Council
County Hall
SG13 8DE
Tel: 01992 555300

        1. Background                                               X

        2. Recommendations

        3. Summary of evidence               X
               Case studies
               Interagency working, including
                discharge of duties
                 District responsibilities
                 HCC (strategic, limitations)
                 EA (statutory obligations, limitations)
                 Water authorities
                 Joint working
               HCC Drainage Action Plan
               Interim Pitt Report

        4. Conclusion                                                   X

        5. Glossary of terms and abbreviations                          X

                Appendix 1 – Membership and List of Meeting Dates
                Appendix 2 – Case Studies
                Appendix 3 – HCC Drainage Action Plan
                Appendix 4 – Interim Pitt Report Summary
                Appendix 5 – Unicorn Project Report

1. Background

1.1 Purpose of the report: The Overview &                       FRAMEWORK FOR SCRUTINY:
    Scrutiny Committee agreed to add this                       Issues and Questions to be addressed:
    topic to the Environment Scrutiny
    Committee‟s work programme. It was                          1. Why are we doing this now? A number
    noted that the Director of Environment                         of factors could intensify the problem,
    has raised land drainage as a key issue                        including
    for the Environment Department. This                            a prediction of shorter sharper rainfall
    should be seen against substantial                              the forecast of the increase in
    additional spending on Herts Highways                             households
    badged as Herts Extra.                                      2. To address the impact of poor drainage
1.2 The purpose of the Topic Group was to                           traffic flow on what is already a very
    examine the impact of land drainage.                              busy network
    The Group held a number of meetings
                                                                    the physical state of the highway
    and took evidence from Hertfordshire
                                                                    damage to property, including HCC
    County Council (HCC) officers, external
                                                                3. Consider the responsibility of agencies
    expert witnesses and a visit to the
                                                                   in respect of the maintenance of:
    Environment Agency.
                                                                    Water Courses and other water falls
1.3 It is a specific report of an all-party five                    Land Drainage
    member Topic Group established by                               Public Sewers
    Hertfordshire County Council‟s                                  The highway drainage system and its
    Environment Services Scrutiny                                     elements
    Committee.                                                  4. Clarify and explore the robustness of
                                                                   HCC‟s involvement in Inter Agency
1.4    The remit of the topic group is contained                   Working, including the responsibility for
      in the Framework for Scrutiny (as                            statutory enforcement
      outlined on this page). A copy of the full                5. Explore how this issue impacts on
      scoping document for this scrutiny can                       HCC‟s Challenge of making
      be viewed on the County Council web-                         Hertfordshire An even better place to
      site at                                                      live and work and Community                    Leadership role

1.5 An area of particular concern was the impact of Climate Change on land
    drainage. The Group established that for the UK there are no long-term
    trends clearly apparent in the amount of annual rainfall the UK receives.
    However, there is a clear trend in the proportion of rainfall received in the
    winter relative to the summer so that winters over the last 30 years have been
    getting wetter, whilst summers have been getting drier.

1.6 The most appropriate information on how climate change will impact on
    rainfall can be found within the UKCIP02 climate change scenarios for the
    United Kingdom. These were produced by the UK Climate Impacts
    Programme (which is funded by the Government) in 2002 and outline the
    potential changes in our climate over the next century. The scenarios are

       based on historical weather data and robust computer modelling techniques
       from the Met Office. From these scenarios, we can expect to see in the East
       of England:
                up to a 15% increase in winter rainfall
                a 15-30% decrease in summer rainfall

 1.7 It is important to recognise these shifts in rainfall between seasons will
     probably have physical implications for the capacity of drainage systems as
     well as their maintenance in the future.

 1.8 In terms of rainfall patterns, particularly short sudden rainfall, it would be very
     difficult, if not impossible to predict at the local scale for the future because it
     is often very localised and subject to a range of factors. However, the
     UKCIP02 scenarios do suggest that for the UK in general winter depression
     tracks (in persons terms „winter storms‟) may be likely to increase in intensity
     and frequency in the future.

 1.9 The new scenarios, due from UKCIP08 IN November 2008, will provide more
     locally specific information and will provide a range of plausible changes in
     climate with an estimated likelihood of occurrence, which is very well suited to
     risk-based decision-making.

 1.10 Minutes and papers from meetings of the Topic Group can be obtained from

 1.11 Having considered the evidence, the Group agreed a series of
      recommendations on behalf of the Environment Scrutiny Committee. The
      Overview & Scrutiny Committee will then consider whether to refer these to
      one or more of the following:
            Leader of the Council
            Chief Executive of the Council
            Executive Member for Highways, Transport & Rural Affairs
            Cabinet
            County Council

1.12   A summary of the Group‟s recommendations is listed.


Recommendation 1            To improve communication and liaison between agencies
                            HCC Environment need to facility a 1 Day Seminar of key
                            partners to establish robust on-going relations between
Recommendation 2            Hertfordshire Highways Action Plan to be introduced
                            during this financial year. Additional revenue funding is
                            provided to restore routine programmes of drainage
                            maintenance, and to develop an asset management
Recommendation 3            The good practice shown by a district with regard to
                            planning and development and riparian maintenance
                            needs to be adopted throughout Hertfordshire who to
Recommendation 4            OSC needs to commission scrutiny of flooding to
                            complement the work of this topic group, especially in light
                            of the presentations made at the Hertfordshire Resilience
                            Conference (6 March 2008

2. Summary of Evidence
2.1 To help develop an understanding of the issues the Group requested in-depth
    studies on two recent incidents in the County: one in a well known hot spot
    and a totally unexpected occurrence. The case studies were concerned
    details of the flooding episode at Barley (14 June 2007) and regular flooding
    on the B158 Lower Hatfield Road.

2.1.1 Barley Flooding: the Group identified a number of key issues including (the
      response from
       Herts Highways included in italics):
          Co-ordination of Cross Boundary working – Hertfordshire Police was
             preventing motorists entering the flood water whilst Cambridgeshire
             Police was not stopping motorists entering the flood water. Perhaps
             this is a matter for closer liaison between the police authorities.
          Would the response need to be different if a similar event occurred on
             a major road? The flooding and embankment slip occurred on a minor
             rural road, which was closed for many weeks whilst remedial work was
             carried out. An embankment slip on a main road is unlikely. Severe
             flooding however could have a major impact on traffic flow if a main
             road was closed or traffic flow impeded
          Is there a need for Herts Highways to survey verges for possible
             slippage in storm conditions? This would be ineffective and costly.
             Even at Barley, an inspection of the embankment would not have
             identified cause for action. The failure was caused by the exceptional
             weather conditions and failure of the water course. There are known
             areas of embankment slippage, even on A roads which are monitored.
          What are Hertfordshire Highway‟s responsibilities in regard to
             supporting the emergency services in incidents of this nature? In
             emergency incidents the emergency services take command. Herts
             highways provide support services as required, and as resources
             permit. There are regular joint exercises held to test out response
             through SERMU
          Does Hertfordshire Highways need a more robust database to log
             incidents of this nature? The Current HERMIS management system
             logs all transactions on the highway from which most reports can be
          Where do the costs associated with incidents of this nature get
             passed? Not sure – we’ll need a clearer response for the final report

2.1.2 The final costs associated with the Barley Case Study were as follows:

      Initial emergency response                               £6,000
      Verge work B1039 Chishill Road                           £12,000
      Landslip Bogmore Road                                    £75,000   Work due to start on
                                                                         site 3-4 weeks.
      Further cleansing of drainage systems                    £3,000
      Total                                                    £96,000

2.1.3 The Group heard details of incidents of flooding on the B158 Lower Hatfield
     Road. The most serious incidents of flooding along this stretch of road
     occurred in 1987, 1993 and 2000. There have been problems with the
     existing drainage system along the B158 for many years and thus far
     Hertfordshire Highways have undertaken remedial works where possible to
     repair the existing system. This section of road has continued drainage
     problems along its length. A study has been carried out to investigate the
     problems and develop solutions. An approach of implementing localised
     improvements on the highway, within the control of Herts Highways was
     proposed, but this has been challenged by businesses located along the
     length of the B158. An holistic approach involving other bodies, principally
     the Environment Agency and adjacent landowners, would be required to
     achieve a long term solution.and is very costly. Heavy Goods vehicle traffic
     travelling along the B158 is not responsible for damaging the highway
     drainage network but does drag soil from the road edges onto the road which
     contributes to blockages of the drainage system.

2.1.4 A summary of problems contributing to flooding along this stretch of road
     were identified:
          Overland run-off from adjacent land;
          Sediment material blocking the drainage network;
          Flooding of the River Lea resulting in water backing up drainage pipes
            and channels.

2.1.5 Possible ways forward have been identified by the Herts Highways:
         Increased co-ordination of activities with external agencies e.g. the
            Environment Agency
         Agree appropriate storm frequency return periods; and design and
            implement a drainage system with adequate capacity
         Implement an improved maintenance regime concentrating on gullies,
            grids and culverts;
         Better co-ordinated works programme ensuring that all appropriate
            works are carried out simultaneously;
         A range of technical options to improve the drainage network.

2.1.6The cost of the holistic approach is estimated to be in the region of £1.2m.

2.2   Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), as the Highway Authority for the
      majority of the roads in Hertfordshire has various duties and powers in
      relation to flooding and drainage on the highway maintained at public

2.2.1 The Highway Authority is not responsible for flooding or drainage on private
     land – this is the responsibility of the owner or occupier of the land. Where the
     flooding is caused by inadequate highway drainage, the Highway Authority
     may be liable for causing a nuisance. Where flooding on a highway is caused
     by another person (e.g. an adjoining landowner), the Highway Authority can
     take action against the person responsible. Nuisance water flowing down a
     farm track will deposit silt or stones onto the highway. HCC has the authority
     to make the land owner prevent this from occurring.

2.2.2 HCC, as the Highways Authority for Hertfordshire, has a common law duty to
     maintain the highway and “put the highway in such good repair as renders it
     reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the neighbourhood at all
     seasons of the year without danger caused by physical condition.” The duty
     to maintain includes a duty to keep the highway free from flooding and
     provide adequate drainage.

2.2.3 Standing water on the road may constitute an obstruction to the highway and
     HCC would have a statutory duty to act.

2.2.4 Under the Flood Defence Funding 2003, enforcement responsibilities for
     small rivers, main ditches and other ditches moved from local authorities to
     the Environment Agency.

2.3 District Responsibilities (the Group may wish to reflect on the comment
     from ESC with regard to new developments on known flood areas). The
     Head of Planning at Hertsmere Borough Council (previously Chairman of
     HCTOA Planning Committee), attended a meeting and provided evidence on
     aspects of the planning process that cover land drainage issues. The Group
     established that strategic flood risk assessment informs the planning process.

2.3.1 There are three main planning documents:
         i)     20 Core Strategic Priorities
         ii)    Site Allocations
         iii)   Development Control Policy Document

2.3.2 Sustainability assessment is undertaken throughout the planning process.
     More assessment is now undertaken in the than in the past and is carried out
     in conjunction with the Highways Authority and Environment Agency. The
     Topic Group were informed about a new piece of work called Strategic
     Drainage Assessment which is undertaken as part of the Local Development
     Framework (this is a statutory requirement). The Site Allocations document is
     the most used for the consideration of Drainage Issues. Most
     districts/boroughs follow a similar process, although it was noted that cross
     boundary work could be further improved by better co-ordinated timescales
     for the production of documents.

2.3.3 Planning permission is required for the concreting of driveways and patio‟s in
     most local authorities. If planning permission is not granted and the
     development goes ahead regardless, the authority has the power to enforce.

     However, as this can be expensive and time consuming, local authorities
     need to consider what the „best use of resource‟ is.

2.3.4 Development Control Process. The speed of determination of applications
     is for small developments – 8 weeks and for large developments – 13 weeks.
     For developments of five or more houses, planning approval is unlikely
     without a drainage system being included within the proposal. Pre-
     negotiation between planners and developers takes place wherever possible.

          HCC (strategic, limitations)

2.4 Environment Agency (EA) (members may wish to consider what to
     include at this section). The Group had a number of areas to cover when
     meeting the EA:
     Current Responsibilities
         What are the main responsibilities of the Environment Agency in
           respect of land drainage and water courses?
         What arrangements are in place for carrying out these responsibilities
         operationally through planned or reactive maintenance works of the
           key drainage channels and water courses by enforcement of the
           powers available either directly or through local authorities and other
     Partnership Working
         What are the key issues associated with partnership working?
     Major Development
         How is the Agency consulted on large scale development and its
           impact at strategic level, local level and case by case?
     Forecasting / Climate
         What involvement does the Agency have with weather forecasting,
           climate change modelling and its impact on land drainage?
         What potential implications does a shift in climate have on drainage

2.5 Water authorities
    Case Study: Radlett Road, Watford. Thames Waters provided the following
    written evidence to the Group.
    Brief details of the history of the problem, how far back does it go,
    extent of problem, impact on residents and road users
     There are 19 properties in Radlett Road and Eastfield Avenue that suffer
     from either foul water flooding, surface water flooding or both. Three are
    flooded internally and 14 externally. The driver property for the scheme
    has flooded six times between 1989, when the first incident was reported,
    and 2006. Flooding also occurs to the highway and this leads to run off
    into the gardens of the properties.
    What is the cause of the problem?
    Flooding is due to lack of hydraulic capacity in the foul and surface water
    sewers. It is also considered that there is insufficient highway drainage in the
    area which exacerbates the problem. The local highway office has

implemented improvements, as far as they are able, to the highway drainage
system, to mitigate property flooding

What is the proposed solution and estimated cost?
Solution on the Byron Av/Eastfield Av SW system involves 127m of new
300/450 sewer and upsizing of 19m of existing 300mm diameter to 450mm
diameter. Solution on the Balmoral Road SW system consists of 210m of
new 450/525/900mm diameter sewer connecting to a 12m diameter. 15 metre
deep tank with pumped return. Foul solution involves 87m of new 450mm
diameter sewer.

What is the programme for the work?
The project is currently in design phase. The next milestone is March 2008
when we request funding from the board to allow us to proceed with
construction. Construction is planned to commence in June 2008 and
completion is proposed as February 2009.

Why is this problem being addresses now?
Projects on the flooding programme are prioritised according to the flooded
properties SFI, Sewer Flooding Index. This is a measure of the severity and
frequency of the flooding that has been experienced. Radlett Road had a
relatively low SFI however the projects with higher scores were addressed
either in the last Amp period or in year one and two of this five year amp
period (we are currently in Year Three). There remains a need to alleviate
flooded properties year on year, so the projects that with lower SFIs, less
outputs (flooded properties) and greater cost are then considered. Relating to
TW improvements work general (surface water sewers and land drainage)

Is there a prioritisation/ ranking process and how does it work? Can a
list be provided of outstanding problems in the county with an indicative
forward programme?
Partially covered this above. Currently there are no further briefed projects in
the Watford area. We have a couple of projects in the St Albans Area but I
understand this is not your patch.

Is there a mechanism for highway flooding problems related to the TW
sewer outfall to be included in the programme?
If during the course of our investigation, we discover a highway drainage
problem is contributing to the overall flooding issue, then we will bring this to
the attention of the highway authority and hope that they will resolve the
issues with their infrastructure. If funded by the HA, highway drainage works
could be included within the scope of our works on site in order to be most
cost effective, minimise disruption to the public, and ensure a joined up
approach between the HA and Thames, as there is nothing worse than
flooding continuing after we've constructed a multi million pound scheme just
because a few extra gullies are required.

In terms of the TW programme what are the nominated area contacts?
Details were provided to Herts Highways.

     Are they aware of our contacts responsible for road space/ works
     No not really. The Principal Project Manager has requested a meeting with
     the Highways Service Manager (South West Herts) and his equivalents for
     the other areas in Herts and , if appropriate, their Manager. The meeting
     would be to discuss how we can all interact in the future and give a more
     general view of Thames Water and what we are doing and how inadequate
     Highway Drainage is becoming more and more of a problem for us when
     resolving flooding. Is this something Herts Highways would be interested in
     meeting us on?

          Joint working


2.6.1 A well maintained drainage system is vital to the effective management of the
     highway network.and is an important factor in safety, the free flow of traffic
     and the condition of the road surface. An extensive drainage system has
     been established, over the last hundred years or more, but records of the
     systems are poor. In urban areas the drainage system commonly comprises a
     network of road gullies, connected to highway drains and surface water
     sewers, in rural areas, typically, grips cut through the highway verge into
     ditches. The highway drainage systems are often dependent on outfalls
     which are the responsibility of the Environment agency, Thames Water or
     land owners.

2.6.2 The Group clarified that 95% of problems with drainage systems are caused
     by blockages. Cleansing and repair work resolves the problem in the majority
     of cases.

2.6.3 Only road gullies are maintained on an annual/cyclic basis. The frequency of
     gully emptying is under review with proposals for an enhanced cleansing
     frequency of vulnerable gullies and a reduced frequency in urban (often
     difficult to access) streets Through the annual programme, defects are
     recorded for later action. A defect at the gully is often an indication of a more
     general problem with the system into which it feeds

2.6.4 Flooding problems are reported by the public at times of heavy rainfall. These
     are responded to through the Cat 1 service, but the cause of the flooding is
     not always resolved. Drainage defects are identified from public reported
     faults or local officer knowledge. Monthly and ad hoc cleansing using a Vactor
     unit is used to investigate defects and cleanse the system, which resolves the
     problem in most cases.

2.6.5 Drainage problems which cannot be resolved simply are put on a list to be
     prioritised for funding as a drainage scheme. The budget (2007/08) for such
     work was £800k. It is expected to be between £800-900k (2008/09). Whilst
     some drainage schemes can cost over £1m, the majority cost less than
     £100k. A huge capital investment would be required to replace Hertfordshire‟s
     drainage systems.

2.6.6 The reduction of revenue funding has resulted in reduction of routine
     maintenance programmes such as grip and ditch clearance, clearing out
     soakaways etc. Drainage systems are maintained only when a problem is
     occurs. The need to quantify the level of service required and the cost of
     maintaining that service was identified. At present there is insufficient
     information to enable a choice to be made on the most effective maintenance

2.6.7 We need more on intro for this item. Information systems are expensive. It
     can cost £2.5k to survey the drainage per kilometre of road and Hertfordshire
     has 5000km of roads. A survey of the A road drainage system would cost in
     the region of £125, 000

2.6.8The support and assistance provided by Thames Water regarding the
     resolution of highway drainage issues is varied with the resolution of a
     number of problems around the county are awaiting their cooperation. It was
     noted that new legislation is being introduced which enables the scrutiny of
     utility companies by local authorities.

2.6.9Traffic Regulation Orders are used to close roads in order to carry out
     maintenance. In some areas HCC gains the cooperation of residents by
     undertaking a letter drop.


2.7.1Herts Highways have developed a drainage action plan for the forthcoming
     year (2008), which will be constrained by the funding available. The main
     elements are:
         improving the methods of capturing and recording and utilising
            information relating to drainage systems;
         prioritisation of, and attention to, regular flooding hot spots/problems;
         implementation of a planned routine maintenance regime, when and
            where possible . Mapping and condition survey of drainage on the A
            road network would be a start
         establishing consistent and best practice across the county with levels
            of service
         developing and utilising stakeholder contacts to improve working

2.8 Interim Pitt Report
    During August 2007, Sir Michael Pitt was asked by ministers to carry out a
    review of the flood-related emergencies which occurred during the summer of
    2007. An interim report has been published to achieve three objectives:
         to identify issues which need urgent action;
         to set out the direction for the remainder of the Review; and
         to provide a document for consultation before the final report is
           published summer 2008.

2.8.1 The floods during June and July 2007 were a wake-up call. The three months
     from May to July were the wettest since records began and the events that
     followed have been linked to the deaths of 13 people. They also resulted in
     damage to approximately 48,000 homes and 7,000 businesses. Power and
     water supplies were lost, railway lines, eight motorways and many other roads
     were closed and large parts of five counties and four cities were brought to a
     standstill. From an emergency response standpoint, this was a new level of
     challenge. The flooding triggered a series of emergencies which stretched
     local resources to the limit. Taken from the Executive Summary of the Interim
     Report (the full summary can be found at Appendix X).

2.8.2The Group considered the outcomes of the recently published interim Pitt
     Review, assisted by the Head of Safety, Emergency Risk Management Unit
     (SERMU) and the Assistant Chief Officer: Service Delivery, Fire & Rescue
     Services. The Pitt Review identified 15 urgent recommendations and 72
     interim recommendations.

2.8.3If Hertfordshire had received the level of rain experienced in other parts of the
     country during the summer 2007, serious flooding could have occurred.
     Hertfordshire‟s location at the top of a catchment area means that the time
     between rain falling and possible flooding is very short. This makes warning
     residents and businesses of possible flooding very difficult.

2.8.4 Hertfordshire County Council has responsibilities under the Civil
     Contingencies Act and invites District and Borough Councils to manage the
     distribution of sandbags. Sandbags are not the best devise for preventing
     flooding but do provide reassurance to the public.

2.8.5 Project UNICORN is an example of joined up working between HCC and
     Middlesex University. The project has been running for the last three years
     and identifies areas at „high risk‟ of flooding within the county. These include
     care homes and schools who have signed up to the scheme. It was noted that
     the sharing of information by utility companies is essential in order to identify
     the impact of assets being lost during flooding events.

2.8.6 Fire & Rescue Service possess high volume pumps, as part of a national
     network, which were deployed to Gloucestershire to help with the summer
     floods. Fire & Rescue Service works outside of the traditional boundaries of
     Hertfordshire in such events.

2.8.7 The difference between Flood Response and Water Rescue were clarified.
     Fire & Rescue Service would do this but receive no funding and there is no
     legal requirement for them to provide this service. Support is provided by
     Water Rescue Experts who are voluntary and support can also be provided
     by the RAF and RNLI.

After assessing the evidence received the Group reached the following

            There is a lack of clarity about the priority and responsibility for
             maintenance of critical water courses.
            infrastructure is in place that is not effectively maintained at the present
            frequency of gully cleaning should be considered – maintenance
             programme for the 160,000 gulley‟s in Hertfordshire
            mapping of the current drainage network – location of sensitive /
             vulnerable gulley‟s
            how to respond to weather events that occur which are very difficult to
            cleaning of grips on rural routes – currently not undertaken

7. Glossary of terms & abbreviations

     Cat 1 service

                                  Environment Scrutiny Committee


                                  Hertfordshire County Council: works with local
                                  organisations and central government to deliver a range
                                  of local services to over a million people, who live, work
                                  and travel in Hertfordshire.



     Riparian Owner                    As a riparian owner your responsibilities include the
     Responsibilities                   maintenance of the bank and bed of your section of
                                        watercourse, in order to avoid any obstruction of flow
                                        in the watercourse;
                                       You must accept flood flows through your land, even
                                        if these are caused by inadequate capacity
                                        downstream. There is no duty in common law for a
                                        landowner to improve the drainage capacity of a
                                       Any structures you own, culverts, trash screens,
                                        weirs and mill gates, must be kept clear of debris.

     Riparian Owners                   You have the right to receive a flow of water in its
     Rights                             natural state, without undue interference in quantity
                                        or quality;
                                       You have the right to protect your property against
                                        flooding from the watercourse and also to prevent
                                        erosion of the watercourse banks or any structures.

     Vactor unit


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