Council leader urges government to fund flood prevention measures

Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, spoke in support of the Met's actions. Picture: Andrew

Jas Athwal has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government to request funds to mitigate flood risks - Credit: Andrew Baker

Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal has urged the government to fund infrastructure upgrades to mitigate and prevent flooding in the borough.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, sent on July 29, Cllr Athwal asked that the department fund the council’s £2.5m flood mitigation works as well as invest in preventative measures.

The letter comes in the wake of flash flooding that hit parts of east London on Sunday, July 25.

Around a month's worth of rain fell in three hours, leaving 200 to 300 homes near the bottom end of Clayhall Avenue flooded, Cllr Athwal has said.

Residents at Peel Place, Vienna Close and Coburg Gardens were among the worst affected.

In his letter, Mr Athwal wrote that a series of soakaways should be installed alongside the length of the River Roding, and asked that the Environment Agency update the Redbridge surface water risk map, so that residents can be fully aware of flood hazards.

He wrote: “Many local people are genuinely starting to despair as they struggle to come to terms with the impact these floods are having on their lives.

“Adapting to the impacts of more commonly occurring extreme weather events in Redbridge will require investment in drainage and water supply systems, transport networks, and energy security to ensure these are not overwhelmed as they were at the weekend.”

As well as asking for investment from the government, Mr Athwal’s letter hit out at water and insurance companies for their response to the floods.

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He said that his team had been “shocked and horrified by the lack of response from insurance companies and Thames Water."

“What has become clear is the need for urgent action from the government, from insurance companies and from Thames Water, to provide the support residents and businesses affected by flash floods rightly deserved,” he added.

He asked for Thames Water to undertake urgent maintenance, upgrading and repairs of the water drainage infrastructure in Redbridge, and to enhance call centre staffing for emergencies.

At a residents’ forum for the west of the borough last Wednesday (July 28), Mr Athwal described Thames Water’s response to the crisis as “woefully inadequate”.

A spokesperson for Thames Water said that they "sympathise" with those affected and were continuing to visit customers across London to help them get their lives back to normal.

They added: “We had extra staff on standby during the event on Sunday July 25 and offered support to the London borough emergency planning teams, who lead on surface flooding.

“We’ve been cleaning roads, pavements and properties since, and we’re trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible but due to the scale of the flooding, this is taking a little longer than normal in some cases."

They said that their call centre had been "exceptionally busy" and that they were taking action to address this.

They added that they share flood risk responsibilities local councils, highways authorities and the Environment Agency, and said they looked forward to working with them on solutions to combat two of the main causes of flooding – climate change and population growth.

The Ilford Recorder understands that Mr Athwal’s letter has been passed onto the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as flooding falls under its remit.

A Defra group spokesperson said: “Flooding can have terrible consequences for people, businesses and the environment, which is why we have ensured that over 1,000 flood schemes across the country are benefitting from record levels of investment – with over £860m to be invested in flood alleviation schemes this year alone.

“The Environment Agency is also leading work with local authorities to provide better surface water flood risk mapping by summer 2022, which will offer crucial information to an additional 3.3 million people and 1.4 million properties at most risk. 

“We are also working with the Met Office to trial new ways to rapidly share surface water forecasting information with responders as they respond to flooding.”

The department noted that while the Environment Agency is not the lead flood authority for surface water flooding, they have been working with Redbridge on a number of actions to manage other sources of flood risk in the borough.

These include schemes to alleviate flooding in Clayhall, Seven Kings, and around the River Roding; work to create flood risk action plans; work to co-ordinate flood risk management across north-east London.