Suffolk: 35,000 homes in county at risk of flooding

NEARLY 35,000 properties in Suffolk are at risk from flooding, new figures have revealed, with officials saying people should take steps to protect their homes in the future.

As experts warn that the heavy rainfall experienced this summer is likely to become increasingly common in future years due to climate change, landowners and members of the public have been urged to do their bit to prevent surface water pouring into homes.

Strategies including the planting of water-retaining plants, reducing the amount of decking and increasing lawned areas in gardens, have all been put forward as ways homeowners can mitigate flood risk.

Other community-based initiatives have also been suggested, including using recreation grounds as sink areas to manage run-off water and building “sink aways” in new developments.

According to new figures in The Local Flood Risk Management Strategy, a document produced by Suffolk County Council in partnership with groups including the Environment Agency and Anglian Water, 28,000 homes in Suffolk are vulnerable to flash floods, with a further 6,100 susceptible to flooding from the sea and rivers.

The paper, which is still under public consultation, states that 13,500 homes in Ipswich, 2,500 in Lowestoft and 2,150 in Newmarket, 2,000 in Bury St Edmunds and 1,750 in Sudbury could be affected by surface water flooding.

Councillor Guy McGregor, who is helping to shape the county council’s local or flash-flooding strategy, has now urged households and businesses to work together to prevent flooding.

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The cabinet member for roads and transport, who presented his ideas to the county council this week, said: “The activities identified in this strategy can only manage flood risk. It would not be possible, even with unlimited funds, to protect all households from any flood risk. Thus my key message is that all involved, organisations and householders alike, need to work together to reduce flood risk in practical ways.

“This involves focusing on reducing the risk of flooding coupled with reducing its impact, making sure that properties and households can cope in the event of a serious flood.”

Mr McGregor, who suggested that recreation grounds could be used as sinks in urban areas to prevent water reaching homes, added: “We have to think up other measures like planting water retaining plants in gardens and making sure hard standing in gardens is water absorbent. Also we shouldn’t park on grass verges as it compacts the ground and causes more water to run off.”

He added that one particular concern, highlighted by torrential downpours in May, was the number of watercourses in Suffolk that overflowed due to both natural debris and fly-tipped rubbish.

“I will be spreading the message that landowners and the public can play a key role in reducing flood risk by helping to keep watercourses clear.”

The county council is now carrying out a number of detailed investigations, mainly in urban areas, to reduce the risk of surface water flooding.

A spokesman for Anglian Water, part of the Flood Risk Management Partnership, said climate change made heavy rainfall like that experienced this year more likely.

He added that ideas like those put forward by Mr McGregor were essential in trying to reduce the risk of flash floods.

“We need to work out what we can do to manage that rain as it falls and try to prevent some of the flooding we have experienced.”

He added that people should consider reducing the amount of decking in their gardens, having larger areas of grass and water retaining plants.

Jeremy Bloomfield, senior advisor for the Environment Agency said: “It important to share expertise, information and work together to get best value for money for flood risk management.”

The public consultation on the strategy will run until 14 September 2012.

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