Soaring flood problems on Suffolk roads could take 10 years to fix
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Flooding problems on Suffolk roads will take between seven and 10 years to fix, highways chiefs have admitted - as reports of incidents have soared by 60% in the last 18 months.
And experts have indicated that it could take as much as £20million extra investment to halve the backlog.
The shock data emerged in a report discussed at Suffolk's flood risk management committee meeting on Tuesday, in which highways flood chiefs spelled out the increasing demand on services.
According to latest figures, there are currently 835 flooding sites identified - up 60% from the 519 in August 2019.
The report said that serious flooding issues meant the 2021/22 work programme of flooding repairs is "already significantly oversubscribed both in terms of budget and resource".
It continued that with more than 800 identified flooding sites - which doesn't include those which will become apparent in the future - an "estimated seven to 10 years' worth of work" was already needed.
Amanda Mays, asset manager for drainage at Suffolk County Council, said that the number of on-the-ground schemes had been increased, and extra funding was going into road flooding.
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However, she said that to clear the backlog could take "£10m-£20m".
She added: "With the sheer volume at the moment which has significantly increased, even though we are tackling more schemes because we have more money, they are coming in at such a rate at the moment.
"If we have got internal property flooding at the moment, we are likely to be delivering that work in the '22/23 programme, which is really not what people want to hear."
Ben Cook, asset policy and commissioning manager at Suffolk Highways, said that the time taken between identifying a problem, designing a solution and completing the engineering can take between a year and three years because of the complexity of problems.
Highways flooding which is prioritised include instances of five or more properties flooded in a single event; flooding of a property on more than one occasion; flooding which closes any major infrastructure for 10 hours or more; those which compromise public safety; and contaminated flood water which may prevent people being able to use toilets and showers.
But it emerged that not all flooding problems on the county's roads may be from a fault on the road network, and could be areas which were the responsibility of landowners, such as overfilled ditches that spill onto the roads.
Suffolk Highways' work includes reactive work such as cleaning out gullies across the entire county every two years; digging trenches from the carriageway to drainage ditches; CCTV work and repairing instances of utility firms cutting through pipes by mistake.
Capital work on bigger projects where new areas were identified was also in its work programme.
Suffolk and Norfolk county councils have recently teamed up to bid for £6m of government cash for tackling flooding from the Flood and Coastal Resilience Programme.
Cabinet member for highways, Andrew Reid, last month told the county's full council meeting that flooding repairs will be a "key focus" in the maintenance programme this year.
However, a final decision on how much will be committed to water on the roads has yet to be confirmed.
The committee has called for a bid to be brought forward to the county council's cabinet to explore what solutions can be put in place, and whether there are options around a medium term work programme and funding arrangements.
Alastair McCraw, Babergh District Council's representative on the board, said: "There is a history of underfunding here, and highways need the support because, not least, although they do all the work they are certainly going to get the blame for anything that doesn't get attended to. It is an impossible situation for them as it stands.
"The issue is growing, that is clear, so there is a need for resources and funding, not least so we can stop any medium examples of flooding issues becoming more serious."