It is amazingly to reflect back only 6 months ago in the Spring that large swathes of the Country were under drought orders with hose pipe banes and other restrictions. What a turn round in the situation where we have just experienced the wettest summer for over 100 years with an average of 366mm of rain fell across the UK.
It was only back in the winter of 2010/11 that we experienced the coldest winter for 100 years! You couldn't have more categorical evidence that our climate is changing . This exactly what the experts have been predicting an increasing number of severe weather events. The resilience of our road network has been further tested by this summer's exceptionally high levels of rainfall.
Despite the progress we’ve made since the severe flooding of 2007 and 2009 and the lessons learnt we are still vulnerable to these severe weather events and their economic consequences . Damage can often run into multi-million pound repair bills for already cash strapped Councils.. Again this summer Councils as far apart as Newcastle and Devon have identified repair bills of £9m and £5m respectively as a consequence of this summer's down pours.
Many Councils who may have previously had the luxury of their own reserves to call on are no longer able to provide this contingency. So what about the Beiwin scheme ? well this only covers emergency work over a certain trigger point and does not provide long term remediation for structural damage. to highway networks.
So what other routes if any are available to access extra funding?
Lessons can be learnt from previous experiences. For example I recall while working for Cambridgeshire County Council back in 2003 where I worked along side a number of other Eastern Shire counties in producing evidence to Government of the extraordinary damage caused by drought particularly on the Fen land roads which suffered severe differential settlement due to the shrinkage of the road sub-structure .As a consequence of our submission we were successive in receiving significant additional funding from DfT.
Similarly after the 2 severe winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 the Government again recognised the scale of the problem and provided extra funding this time for all Local Highway Authorities.
There is currently no formal process but my advice is to those worst affected Councils provide clear evidence of the extent of the damage and the extra cost of repairs .Also be prepared to provide match funding if any additional support is forth coming . Submit this information to DfT and you may receive a sympathetic ear!
The importance effective management of our highway drainage assets couldn't be greater with the new statutory requirements for upper authorities as a consequence of the Flood and Water Management Act and the increase in flooding events. The good news is that HMEP is on the case and is developing guidance for more effective management of highway drainage assets.
This guidance has been drawn from the work undertaken from a number of Councils that benefited from specific Government funding to support highway asset management the so called Element 2 Fund provided almost 4 years ago now. A number of Councils used the funding to undertake specific investment to improve the management of their drainage assets these were Dorset, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the 3 cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester.
The guidance scheduled to be published later this autumn. will incorporate a number of recommendations to help identify better management of highway drainage assets.