5.1 James Blockley, Principal Flood Risk Management Officer, had been invited to give the Committee a presentation on Natural Flood Management (NFM). Members noted the following:
· In its simplest term, NFM was a flood risk management methodology that sought to emulate and augment the way nature dealt with the flow of water through a range of natural processes.
· This could be done, for example, by; increasing roughness to slow water down, putting obstructions in the way, increasing losses or holding water back to be released at a controlled rate.
· Various techniques would be used to achieve these interventions, for example, land use change such as restoring habitats, multiple smaller interventions such as dams or larger schemes such as reconnecting flood plains etc.
· The benefits of NFM did not just lie within flood management, but also biodiversity and carbon capture as well as health and wellbeing due to residents feeling reassured the flood risk was being managed etc.
· It was important to note that NFM worked best as a part of a ‘toolbox’ of measures.
· The success of NFM had been measured by constant monitoring, before during and after interventions and by looking at successful projects.
· An example was given of the Stroud NFM project which had been a huge success and was increasingly being used as an example of best practice. The scheme involved 750 individual interventions, which had resulted in 25% of the catchment now draining through NFM and 1m peak river level reduction.
· Slide 5 outlined the challenges that remained for NFM. It relied significantly on people to talk to landowners, communities, effective monitoring etc. The interventions themselves were not expensive, it was more the resource needed from officers to get to the installation stage.
· The criterion on government funding often centred around the number of homes better protected. This was a difficult thing to measure through NFM and would be better to take into account all the added benefits when assessing funding levels.
· Liability also played a big part in the success of these interventions. As many completely relied on the landowner’s permission, they often worried about the interventions failing and becoming liable for community flood events.
· The final slide explored what was next for Gloucestershire in this area, which included:
o Understanding the upstream NFM potential to reduce the level of water coming into Gloucestershire during heavy rain, before spending a lot of money on concrete alleviations in the lower catchments where the flooding happened.
o Continuing to build on partnerships and networks, a collective effort on this issue would be much more beneficial rather than GCC working in isolation.
o Building on GCC’s officer resource. There had recently been approval to recruit a full-time member of staff to look at NFM project development. This would fill a massive gap in the team which had been needed for a while now.
5.2 In response to a question, it was advised that the team were not yet working actively with the county farms estate. They were focusing their efforts on existing schemes but this was something, once the new NFM officer was in place, that will be able to come forward.
5.3 Members noted if there was a particular flooding issue they wanted to evaluate to see if NFM could help, they should speak with the flood team at GCC or partner organisations such as the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) or Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
5.4 The Committee thanked the officer and his team for all their hard work.