21 February 2024
Attleborough Flooding – Update

With Storm Babet still fresh in the memories of the 100+ Attleborough households and businesses flooded back in October, I am very aware of the ongoing pressure and stress heavy rainfall is putting upon many of my constituents in the town.

That’s why, since the multi-agency meeting I convened last month to strengthen coordination between stakeholders at all levels, I have continued to take a close interest with local councillors.

I recently joined a stakeholder conversation to discuss the Mill Lane culvert and receive an update on progress, and can confirm that:

  • The design for the new Mill Lane culvert trash screen has now been approved and costed – with Norfolk County Council, Breckland Council and Anglian Water all reaffirming their commitment to share those costs and proceed as quickly as possible.

(As highlighted previously however, the new trash screen may not be in place for several months – with the screen itself taking up to a month to construct and then stakeholders having to wait until the water level has dropped sufficiently and the watercourse can be dewatered for the construction of the screen’s concrete base).

  • NCC have had the culverts at Mill Lane and Briar Gardens inspected again. Deposits of gravel and silt have been found in parts and NCC are pressing ahead with arrangements to have these cleared – with the necessary contractors set to carry out works in early March.

In addition to this, I can share news that:

  • I continue to support NCC’s Flood and Water Management team and local councillors as they engage with landowners upstream to explore potential flood prevention and mitigation measures on their land.
  • NCC sent riparian ownership reminder letters to landowners and homeowners along the problem watercourse in mid-January to remind them of their riparian responsibilities and make clear what they must not throw into the stream.
  • NCC are working with the Internal Drainage Board to lobby Network Rail to inspect and, if necessary, clear the culvert they are responsible for downstream under the A11.
  • Stakeholders continue to look at what more can be done to protect the most at risk properties this winter.

Once again, I’ve reiterated the importance of looking at the longer term issue of responsibility and maintenance of the culverts and watercourses – and I will be involved in the next Mill Lane culvert stakeholder meeting next week as these vital conversations continue.

I am also arranging the next wider multi-agency meeting on the Attleborough flooding too.

Rest assured, I will continue to work with local councillors and residents to hold the key stakeholders to account on this to drive forward the solutions Attleborough needs to see.

To learn more on the Attleborough Flooding campaign to date, please scroll down and read the updates below.

To learn more about my wider ‘Flooding and the Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership’ campaign, please click the link here.

UPDATE 17 January 2024

Storm Babet flooded over 100 homes in Attleborough back in October and local residents (for some of which the recent flooding was the fourth time they had been affected) are rightly furious.

That’s why, as part of my ongoing Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership and Flooding Campaign work, I continue to take an active role in supporting those affected and holding the key stakeholders to account – both here in Mid Norfolk, but also in Westminster.

While a number of short and medium term measures have already been carried out or are underway (see here), the incredibly high water levels at the Mill Lane culvert and watercourse at the start of the new year, and the serious risk residents are having to take in order to protect their homes, shows more must be done.

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Last week, I convened a multi-agency meeting with representatives from Norfolk County Council, the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, Breckland Council, the local Internal Drainage Board, Anglian Water, Natural England, the Environment Agency – as well as local Town, Parish, District and County Councillors and representatives of local landowners upstream of the Mill Lane culvert and watercourse – to emphasise again the importance of tackling these serious issues and explore in greater depth the short, medium and long term work required to significantly reduce future flood risk.

I drew particular attention to those homeowners most at risk of flooding on Mill Lane – many of whom feel helpless and desperate, believing they have no choice but to seriously risk their own safety to try and keep the trash screen across the Mill Lane culvert clear each time it rains.

The key discussion points from the meeting were:

  • A shared acknowledgement that residents are seriously risking their own safety to keep the Mill Lane culvert trash screen clear of debris – and of the fact that conditions and circumstances at the culvert can change rapidly during periods of heavy rain.
  • Agreement that the existing Mill Lane culvert trash screen should not be removed until the new replacement has been installed (work currently underway – see here) – as the culvert has a 90 degree bend that, were it to become blocked, would be extremely difficult and costly to clear – and significantly worsen the current flood risk to the area.
  • NCC Flood and Water Management officials met with Anglian Water contractors on-site (the day prior the meeting) to verify the new trash screen designs ahead of pricing the work – with a multi-agency agreement already in place to fund it.
  • The installation of the new trash screen will likely not be possible prior to the summer. This is because the watercourse will need to be de-watered so that a new concrete base can be constructed and the trash screen fitted.
  • Further measures are therefore required in the short term to try and reduce flood risk along the watercourse and at the Mill Lane culvert.
  • NCC are going to work with local landowners and other stakeholders to explore installing an additional, temporary screen somewhere upstream that can catch debris and prevent it becoming a problem in Attleborough itself.
  • The Mill Lane culvert, and others along the watercourse, cannot be expanded – nor the watercourse itself deepened or widened – due to the amount of development and road access around and across it. The enormous cost and disruption, and lack of space, make it impossible.
  • Given concerns over residents and local councillors risking their safety by entering the watercourse to keep the Mill Lane culvert trash screen clear, a suggestion was made to appoint a jointly funded contractor to be on 24/7 call out to clear debris and blockages at the culvert trash screen when required. This suggestion was dismissed on the basis that no organisation would allow their staff to entering the water in storm flow conditions (when they would be most needed) – especially if Norfolk Fire and Rescue themselves have said the risk would be too great for even their own teams.
  • A suggestion was made to explore how the watercourse may, long term, be diverted to another course away from the town. Flooding Officers explained this would probably not be possible given local topography.
  • It is therefore not possible to immediately remove all flood risk. Instead, agencies must work with the properties most at risk to do as much as possible to improve their flood resilience.
  • NCC have also submitted a bid to the Natural Flood Management Fund, supported by myself and others, and I am working with them and local landowners upstream to explore how we might deliver a Flood Mitigation and Water Storage Scheme that could drastically reduce the long term flood risk to homeowners and businesses in Attleborough (see more here)
  • Everyone affected in the area by flooding in October must formally report their cases via the Norfolk County Council website to enable the Flood Investigations underway to be as accurate as possible – which in turn will strengthen the hand of local stakeholders to lobby for additional funding and support.
  • NCC are to look at monitoring water volumes and storm flows on the watercourse – again to strengthen their hand when lobbying for resources.
  • Local councillors asked what more could be done to improve safety for those homeowners currently taking risks to keep the Mill Lane culvert trash screen clear. It was asked if lighting and cameras could be installed.
  • I reiterated my ongoing support for all the efforts to tackle these flooding issues – and highlighted my efforts in Westminster to bring about the national reform needed also (see more here)

As is clear, this isn’t an easy fix – with multiple challenges faced. However, I am determined to all I can to support the community.

The key focusses/timescales moving forward are:

Short Term (Now-next few weeks)

  • Doing as much as possible to improve the flood resilience of the most at risk properties
  • Explore what more can be done to improve safety for those putting themselves at risk to keep the Mill Lane culvert trash screen clear
  • Find a suitable location for an additional, temporary screen upstream to collect debris – and explore additional short term measures upstream that can reduce flood risk

Medium Term (Summer)

  • Replacement of the existing trash screen with a new one that is designed specifically for the challenges being faced.
  • Continue to explore what measures can be introduced to reduce flood risk.

Longer Term

  • Deliver a Flood Mitigation and Water Storage Scheme upstream that can significantly reduce flood risk
  • Deliver legislative changes and reform in the House to better empower local communities so that they can protect themselves from flooding, while also holding developers to account when new housing exacerbates local problems.

Rest assured, I will keep working tirelessly on this issue.

To stay up to date, please visit my flooding campaign page here.

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UPDATE 4 December 2023

Over 100 homes in Attleborough were flooded in Storm Babet at the end of October.

We cannot allow this to happen again. Local residents (for some of which the recent flooding was the fourth time they had been impacted) are rightly furious.

That’s why earlier today, as part of my ongoing campaign (and having recently reconvened the Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership that I established back in early 2021 – see here), I met with Norfolk County Council’s Flood and Water Management team, the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance and representatives for some of the landowners upstream of the Mill Lane culvert and watercourse.

It’s clear that that we need a proper long term strategic plan that addresses problem watercourse pinch points AND looks to better control the flow of water downstream during heavy rainfall events. While some positive progress is already being made at the Mill Lane culvert itself (as explained in my previous Attleborough Flooding campaign update here), today’s call focused on what can be done further upstream – and I am committed to actively supporting NCC/the NSFA and partners as they work with landowners and other agencies to explore what flood mitigation and water storage scheme measures might work best for Attleborough.

To see all of my recent work supporting Attleborough residents, please click here or see below.

For full details on all of my flooding campaign work, please visit my website here.

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UDPATE 29 November 2023

Attleborough was one of several Mid Norfolk communities badly impacted by recent flooding.

That’s why, as part of my ongoing campaign, I visited Mill Lane with Cllrs Samantha and Taila Taylor this past Friday to see the problem culvert/watercourse first hand and meet with some of the worst affected residents.

Please see my video above.

Local residents (for some of which the recent flooding was the fourth time they had been impacted) are rightly furious – and I continue to hold the key stakeholders to account to ensure everything that can be done is indeed being done to provide affected residents with the support they need, as well as to put in place a short, medium and long term plan that looks to try and prevent future such flooding again in future.

Some positive progress is already being made (as explained in my previous Attleborough Flooding campaign update here), but there still remains much more to do.

That’s why, as highlighted in my recent update here, I recently reconvened the Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership to give our communities the strongest possible voice on these issues. Attleborough had strong representation on that call and I am determined to do everything I can, alongside local councillors, to ensure residents like those on Mill Lane and surrounding streets are heard.

I will be involved in more meetings in the coming days and am also writing to ministers and officials in Westminster to re-emphasise again the need to put greater emphasis on flooding and drainage matters in the planning process – including putting increased responsibility on developers who’s developments subsequently flood and/or impact the existing community.

To stay up to date with all my work on these issues, please visit my Flooding campaign page here.

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UPDATE 3 November 2023

Further to my webstory update last week (see here), I can now provide more information on the work being done by multiple parties to address the terrible flooding that has recently affected many households and businesses in Attleborough. 

On Monday, the Town Council and local district and county councillors held a public meeting in the town for local residents to speak with key stakeholders. The event was well attended and I am pleased to report that stakeholders have been following up on a number of the points and concerns raised – with additional site visits undertaken to the culvert and watercourse on Mill Lane (as well as the culvert in Briar Gardens). Meetings with developers to assess drainage on their building sites have also taken place and I am aware that a series of additional measures, along with further clearing of drains and ditches, are already being implemented – with anecdotal reports of additional blockages being addressed. I will continue to monitor progress closely.

Further to the emergency meeting I held last week (see here), an urgent meeting took place on Tuesday between Norfolk County Council, the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, Breckland Council and Anglian Water to discuss in greater depth the specific issues that caused flooding at the Mill Lane culvert and connected watercourse. 

As many are aware, the culvert and watercourse were divested to riparian ownership many years ago. While that question of who will take on the long term ownership remains (and rest assured that I continue to push very hard on that and have challenged all stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop a proper strategic plan and solution for the issue), I welcome the collective recognition that something needs to be done as soon as possible, with agreement that the inadequate and unsafe trash screen that caused many of the recent problemsneeds to be replaced.

On a without prejudice basis (of who will assume long term responsibility for the culvert and watercourse) and as a gesture of goodwill, Anglian Water have agreed to have their contractors assess the trash screen and culvert and work up the design for a much safer, more effective replacement. All stakeholders will then jointly fund the improved screen and Anglian Water will install it.

In the meantime (and again on a without prejudice basis and as a gesture of goodwill), Anglian Water will endeavour to send staff every couple of weeks to keep the existing trash screen clear. (Breckland, NCC and Anglian Water are also discussing a longer term plan for removing any debris collected from the culvert and watercourse)

I would like to reiterate however that I will keep on the critical question of who will assume the long term responsibility and ownership of the culvert and watercourse – and am already liaising with the key stakeholders on the date for a follow-up meeting to discuss that matter further.

NCC have also confirmed that the gulleys around Mill Lane have been cleared (with additional review taking place of gulleys on surrounding streets) and I understand that an assessment is taking place as to whether the trash screen at the Briar Gardens culvert should be removed. 

A full flood investigation is now being led by NCC in line with their statutory processes. Although their Flood and Water Management team had already been working on proposals to better mitigate flooding in this area (as a result of the December 23rd-24th 2020 flooding event), there is recognition that their Flood Plan for the area, and its associated work, now needs accelerating and upscaling. I have committed to supporting NCC as they seek to secure the additional funding required to implement any recommended measures, as well as to engage with key local landowners.

I am also in the process of reconvening the Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership I previously established – and will ensure Attleborough is represented in those vital conversations.

Rest assured, I am determined to do everything I can to speak up for those affected in Attleborough, as well as those across Mid Norfolk.

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UPDATE 25 October 2023

Storm Babet has reminded us again why we must continue to take flooding seriously.

Attleborough was one of several Mid Norfolk communities badly impacted, with severe flooding on Mill Lane, Norwich Road, Ferguson Way and other nearby streets. For some, it was the fourth time they had been flooded in 30 years – and the second time in just under three years. I appreciate, and share, the immense anger and frustration felt by those that have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the damage suffered this past weekend.

That’s why I held an emergency meeting today with Norfolk County Council and their Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, Anglian Water and Breckland District Council to get to the bottom of what is causing the flooding at the watercourse and culvert on Mill Lane, as well as ensure that those with statutory flooding responsibilities come together and develop an urgent action plan.

While NCC began working on proposals to address flooding at this location in light of the December 2020 flooding, Storm Babet has brought into sharper focus the need to upscale and accelerate those proposals, and address other issues such as questions around which authority is responsible for the culvert and watercourse and therefore who should be maintaining them.

I had made clear that there needs to be:

  1. A proper plan for ensuring affected residents (and the wider community) are protected from further flooding this winter.
  2. An acceleration and upscaling of efforts to put in place a long term solution.
  3. A proper plan for who is going to be responsible for this culvert and watercourse in due course.
  4. Agreement on who is going to keep the culvert and watercourse clear NOW – while the longer term plan is being developed and implemented.

I am in close contact with local district councillors and a number of those worst affected by the flooding and am determined to help them work with key stakeholders to develop a solution.

We must see action. This must not be allowed to happen again. And residents should not be risking their own safety to try and keep this culvert clear during storms and heavy rainfall.

More widely, I will be reconvening the Mid Norfolk Flood Partnership I established as a result of the Winter 2020/21 flooding to help support those affected by Storm Babet and ensure our communities have the strongest possible voice heading into this autumn/winter.

Rest assured, I will continue to support councillors and residents in the days, weeks and months ahead.

To see my Flooding Update earlier this week, please click here

To find out more about my historic campaign work on flooding, please visit my campaign page here

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