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During the recent floods, there have been excellent examples of close partnership working between the Environment Agency (EA), IDBs and Local Authorities at both “response” and “recovery” stages. At many locations a combined approach,

identifying priorities for action and making best use of available resources, has been crucial to effective incident management. This has been applied at all levels – strategic, tactical and operational working with the emergency services – to provide direct support to those worst affected.

Lincolnshire In Lincolnshire, the sharing of local

knowledge, skills and resources proved invaluable in reducing impacts to residential and business properties and high grade agricultural lands during tidal surge in December 2013. The surge, the worst on record, caused overtopping of defences and damage to floodwalls and raised embankments around Boston and the Wash.

Approximately 650 properties were affected by the highest tide of 5 December, but a further 18,000 properties were adequately defended. Temporary repairs were quickly undertaken, including the use of demountable defences, avoiding major impact on subsequent tides. At Slippery Gowt, just outside Boston, the

EA and IDBs combined efforts to manage the ongoing flood risk. The threat from a 40m breach in the front line defence was averted by the EA strengthening a former line of defence, before piling across the main breach a few days later. Immediately adjacent to these works, Black

Sluice IDB pumped out the floodwater and, working under the new Public Sector Cooperation Agreement with the EA, cleared the significant amount of debris that had accumulated, before sealing a “listed” sluice in the embankment. Witham 4th

and Lindsey Marsh IDBs, along

with other local IDBs, Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council, also worked closely with the EA to share information, such as inspection reports for the many miles of defences, assisting in prioritising key areas for remedial works and supporting communications with landowners and the local communities.

East Suffolk In the Alde and Ore estuaries, a partnership

Above and bottom left - Repairing a breach in the defences at Slippery Gowt (Sean Marshall)

Somerset action plan

On 27 January, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that a plan to alleviate flooding on the Somerset Levels would be drawn up within six weeks. This would almost certainly include a

project to clear accumulated silt from the Parrett and Tone Rivers, as he acknowledged that the national guidelines on dredging should not apply in the area as so much of it is below sea-level. Mr Paterson said that he wanted a concrete

plan to be drawn up to provide a long-term solution. This would involve all interested parties, including: the local authorities, the Environment Agency, the Internal Drainage Boards, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department for Transport, and the Department for Communities and Local Government. On his visit to Somerset Mr Paterson stated:

“I’ve come down here to see what can be done. It appears from what everyone’s telling me that we do need to dredge these two rivers but also we need to do more to hold water back, way back in the hills.” He said he understood the impact of

flooding on the community, adding: “It is absolutely shocking and horrifying to people’s private lives, to their business lives, it is incredibly disruptive.” On 29 January, Prime Minister David

Cameron also addressed the issue during Prime Minister's Questions. Jeremy Browne MP questioned whether the Prime Minister would give a commitment to take immediate action to try and clear the floodwater from the Somerset Levels as soon as possible and also to put in place a long-term plan to make sure this does not happen again in the future. David Cameron assured the

House that the Government would be working to deliver both of those assurances. He stated that it was not [then] currently safe to undertake dredging but that dredging would start as soon as it is practical to do so. By the end of January around

11,500 hectares of the Somerset Levels were inundated by about 65 million cubic metres of water.


Somerset Levels and Moors 20 Year Action Plan Following the flooding in 2012 the Somerset

Levels and Moors Task force was established, to produce a 'vision' of what the Levels and Moors might look like in 2030. The vision is intended to guide water and land management policies over the coming years, and has a membership which includes district and county councils, the National Farmers Union, the Environment Agency, Somerset Consortium of Drainage Boards and wildlife bodies. The Vision was released on 31 January and,

following its release the public was invited to comment, with responses being collated and a final plan being submitted to Owen Paterson the first week of March. Further information can be found at somerset-levels-and-moors-20-year-action-plan.

approach led to repair works which otherwise would not have taken place. At Iken, the defences which protect the village, high grade agricultural land and grazing marsh, were breached at 4 locations with significant scour also occurring

on the landward face. Open discussions between East Suffolk IDB, the EA and landowners resulted in effective reinstatement works. Following additional pumping by the IDB to evacuate floodwater, land based plant made a permanent repair, supported by Environment Agency funding and using locally won material provided by the landowner. Similar discussions are taking place between

landowners, local communities, IDBs and the EA to consider options and resources for potential works at Ham Creek and Hazlewood on the Alde, Martlesham Creek on the Deben and Levington Creek on the Orwell. These examples typify the many benefits

of joint working during and after an incident. Similarly, the principles of efficient working and best use of available resources can be applied to routine maintenance works. All can be included in a flexible Public Sector Cooperation Agreement (further details at This allows those IDBs or Local Authorities who have such an arrangement with the EA to focus discussions on works and delivery, knowing that whatever is agreed can be implemented on a sound legal footing and without tendering.


Environment Agency

Environment Agency

Martin Redding

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