Measures to tackle Suffolk's 10-year road flooding backlog published
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Highways chiefs in Suffolk have been compelled to ensure long term financing and resources to tackle Suffolk's soaring road flooding problems are put in place, after it emerged the current backlog could take 10 years and millions of pounds to fix.
Suffolk County Council's flood risk management committee has published its recommendations following a meeting last month in which shock new data emerged indicating the number of road flooding problem spots had increased by 60% in 18 months, leaving a backlog of more than 800 areas that could take a decade to fix.
The committee has said that the authority needs to recruit more specialist officers to plan and manage reactive flood maintenance work, allocate more resources to ensure flooding spots are mapped, and "a need to establish a longer-term more stable funding strategy to enable the council to plan and implement flood remediation measures effectively".
Other recommendations include investigating stronger enforcement measures when blocked drains cause road flooding, more engagement with the planning system to ensure developers make contributions to tackling road flooding and upgrading equipment for more complex cases.
The report said the cabinet "should explore with officers from Suffolk Highways the resource that would be required to address issues resulting from historic underfunding of highways flooding programmes, address concerns relating to high priority flood prone locations, and promote confidence in future flood related investment".
What the administration says
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Conservative cabinet member for highways, Andrew Reid, said: "We take flooding on the highways very seriously, which is why we have already doubled our spending for the coming year from £2million to £4m.
"This extra money is to tackle the backlog of issues on our roads in Suffolk and we will be spending it on hiring new specialist equipment and experienced engineers. They will focus on identifying and quickly resolving the more straightforward flooding problems.
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"We have of course, had an extremely wet autumn and winter and I know this extra spending now will make a significant difference to improving highways drainage right across the county.
"Suffolk Conservatives in our manifesto are pledging to spend an extra £10m on highways drainage and flooding over the next four years. This would allow us to focus on the more complex drainage problems and prioritise our efforts on resolving them.
"The full positive impact of this extra spending will not be known until work starts in detail and the necessary drainage schemes are designed. However, we are confident this investment will have a significant benefit to residents, businesses and road users across Suffolk."
What the other parties say
Peter Gardiner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour group and spokesman for public protection and the environment, said: "For too long communities in Suffolk have been treated as an afterthought by the Conservatives when it comes to flooding.
"It is a complete farce that some people will have to wait for 10 years for action to be taken in their area, and this is a direct result of the Conservatives thinking they can tinker around the edges and make changes on the cheap.
"This clearly needs to be made a priority and Labour are committed to delivering the investment Suffolk needs to tackle this crisis now, not in a decade's time.
"We also know that there are often water shortages at other times of the year, impacting farming, industry and environmental habitats. Therefore we need to work holistically and deliver additional water capture schemes across our county too."
Penny Otton from the Liberal Democrats, said: "Most of the recommendations are exactly what we asked for in our budget amendments: the lack of resources - both officer and finance - and most importantly the relationship with planning. We have seen some appalling decisions where the risk and impact of flooding has not been taken seriously.
"Small scale in-town flooding must be taken seriously and these are often put to the back of the queue. The fact that Suffolk has a 10-year backlog of cases has got to be dealt with urgently.
"Developments leading to flooding should be immediately followed up and legal action needs to be taken where flooding is disrupting the lives of residents."
Robert Lindsay from the Greens said: "We're delighted that the flooding scrutiny committee is recognising the historic underfunding of flood maintenance work by Suffolk County Council and sincerely hop the cabinet now acknowledges that fact.
"For seven years this administration held council tax flat and claimed that it had identified clever ways to save money without cutting services. The falsity of this position, which has in reality hollowed out services, is now coming to light.
"Green councillors have long said that the Conservatives should have raised council tax by just 1% a year and that would have generated the extra money needed to keep pace with drainage repairs and flood remediation, particularly given that it has been known for some time that the climate crisis will lead to more and more flooding.
"We're pleased to see that the flood scrutiny committee is asking for recruitment of specialist officers to manage flood maintenance work, very similar to one of our proposed budget amendments - rejected by the Conservatives in February - which recommended that the council hire an extra officer for the floods team to act as a project manager."