FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT AND RIPERIAN LAND OWNERSHIP TASK AND FINISH GROUP
The Committee Chair, in his capacity as the Chair of the Flood Risk Management and Riparian Land Ownership Task and Finish Group, introduced the report (previously circulated) which updated the Committee on the Task and Finish Group’s activities. Attached to the covering report was the Task and Finish Group’s final report, which detailed its findings and recommendations, and which sought the Committee’s approval for those recommendations.
At this juncture, Councillor Huw Williams (Chair) thanked all internal and external members of the Group for their diligent work. He also thanked Karen Evans, Democratic Services Officer, for the work she had done and for the excellent report which had drafted on the Group’s behalf.
The Chair outlined the background to the Task and Finish Group’s establishment by the Committee, which was primarily to examine methods to further strengthen interaction and working relationships between public flood management authorities and riparian landowners. He advised that all Group members had learnt a considerable amount about each other’s roles, responsibilities and work practices during the course of the Group’s work. As a result, all agreed that working relationships and mutual trust had been strengthened through the existence of the Group. The Group had also answered a number of myths in relation to responsibilities and permissions sought for river and riverbank maintenance work, such as the actual number of applications received for Flood Risk Activity Permits (FRAPs) from landowners, riparian land ownership responsibilities within the Rhyl Cut and Prestatyn Gutter catchment area etc., all of which were documented within the report. The Group’s work had also highlighted the wide range of information available on each flood risk authority’s website for the public, including an extremely useful frequently asked questions section on the Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s website. As a result, one of the Task and Finish Group’s recommendations was that, for ease of access to the public, the Council’s own Local Flood Risk Management Strategy page should be relaunched and should include links to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s relevant webpages. The new page should also include information on the responsibilities of Flood Risk Management Authorities and those of riparian land owners.
Responding to members’ questions the Chair, Task and Finish Group members and officers advised that:
· all stakeholder’s understanding of each other responsibilities and their working relationships with each other had improved during the course of the Task and Finish Group’s work.
· the recommendation to work in partnership to produce and deliver a generic information leaflet on the roles and responsibilities of flood risk authorities and householders along the Rhyl Cut and Prestatyn Gutter was due to the complexities involved with multiple ‘riparian landownership’ in a densely populated area and a wide misconception that NRW was responsible for private boundaries abutting the watercourses. Similar exercises were not deemed necessary in other areas of the county where larger landowners were familiar with their responsibilities;
· the local authority had powers conferred on it under the Land Drainage Act to intervene in certain instances. However, whilst it had the powers to intervene it was not duty bound to do so;
· riparian land owners had certain responsibilities in relation to not blocking watercourses etc. and there were recourses for action with regards to cutting off natural water supplies through common law; and
· new developments were required to be serviced by separate surface and foul water drainage systems, this was not the case for older residential developments where both surface and foul water were eventually channelled into the same sewer system;
· circulating the report to all city, town and community councils would help in communicating useful information regarding flood risk management responsibilities to all residents and businesses in the county.
Task and Finish Group members emphasised the benefits of the Group’s work, at which issues which had been highlighted at a number of different groups and committees had been discussed openly with all stakeholders. This had generated good, open and constructive discussion which had led to all having a better understanding of each other’s roles as well as the constraints within which they had to work. There was a mutual feeling amongst all involved with the Group’s work that a high level of mutual trust and understanding had been fostered. Consequently, the Group wished to continue to meet on at least an annual basis to discuss issues of concerns and future plans.
Committee members thanked the Task and Finish work for its work and its comprehensive report. It supported the Group’s enthusiasm to continue to meet on an annual basis and its appetite to work with all stakeholders going forward. It was therefore suggested that the Group report to Communities Scrutiny Committee on an annual basis on its discussions. At the conclusion of the discussion the Committee unanimously:
Resolved: subject to the above observations to thank the Task and Finish Group for its work, to receive its report and endorse its contents including the following recommendations:
(i) that a Flood Risk Working Group comprising of the flood risk management authorities and landowner representatives continue to meet on an annual basis for an updated position on issues and expectations, and report on its discussions to Communities Scrutiny Committee;
(ii) that the Local Flood Risk Management Strategy page on the Council’s website be re-launched including:
(a) links to related Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water web pages; and
(b) an explanation of the responsibilities of Flood Risk Management Authorities and riparian landowners,
(iii) that working in partnership with Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water a generic information leaflet/letter be created on the responsibilities of riparian landowners and distributed to properties adjacent to the Rhyl Cut and Prestatyn Gutter; and
(iv) that the report presented to the Committee be translated and circulated to City, Town and Community Councils for inclusion on their websites.