Natural Flood Management Conference
Around 200 people attended our conference on Natural Flood Management (NFM) at the University of Gloucestershire on 25th January 2017.
The conference -"Natural Flood Management: Enabling Partnerships and Action" – was organised by Stroud District Council in partnership with the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and was aimed at building partnerships between local communities, flood groups, local authorities and land managers to enable them to deliver effective natural flood management at the local scale.
The conference focused on the real partnerships established to enable Stroud District Council to deliver the Stroud Valleys Natural Flood Management project in Gloucestershire, which is building Natural Flood Management in the catchment of the Stroud River Frome.
An interactive version of the programme has been created by CCRI and can be downloaded, enabling you to link to the presentations. Download interactive programme. They are also available directly on the CCRI Slideshare page.
The Conference had keynote speakers from the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council, the Severn and Wye Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Community engagement and Stroud District Council. The seminar sessions were lead by experts from the National Flood Forum on building partnerships and community engagement and staff from Government agencies such as Natural England and the Forestry Commission as well as people representing Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, National Farming Union and Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group wildlife. The aim of all sessions was to facilitate the creation of effective and long lasting partnerships between local authorities, communities and landowners to facilitate natural flood management projects on the ground.
Claire Dinnis from the Environment Agency outlined that NFM covered a range of activities across the whole catchment covering upland storage, flood plain, in-channel and urban. She highlighted the importance of working with local stakeholders to determine the right options for the right place. The Environment Agency is working on the development of an evidence directory.
Anne Wheeler, the Chair of the Severn and Wye (England) Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, outlined the need for the Environment Agency and others to engage with local communities and to be flexible about this as there were a range of options and emphasised that it is better to take time over the right option than rush a poor decision.
Mark Hawthorne (Leader Gloucestershire County Council) spoke about the Lead local Flood Authority role, which included support for natural flood management where appropriate.
Mary Dhonau, an advisor to communities on flooding and property protection for many years, made the case for local communities to be taken seriously and become fully involved in the process of developing options for NFM. The knowledge transfer between different stakeholders and agencies is a strong enabler for successful projects.
Finally, Chris Uttley outlined the model for the Stroud project and what it has achieved the work over the past 3 years. Stroud has taken a deliberately local focus to the delivery of NFM by developing a circulate economy that develops the skills and maximises the use of local knowledge.
The four workshops were held on the themes of; Community involvement; Partnerships and funding; Regulation and consenting; Practical techniques and land management. The summaries presented in the plenary are shown below.
The main findings are that
- The emergence of NFM means that there is a wider recognition that flood defences based in and around areas of population are insufficient on their own to cope with the changing weather and climatic conditions that the UK is experiencing.
- NFM is a new addition to the catchment management tool kit that has now received explicit government backing with the announcement of £15 million in late 2016.
- NFM involves soft-engineering techniques on a small scale that act collectively to ‘slow the flow’ and increasing the availability of temporary water storage areas.
- NFM requires a far greater degree of stakeholder engagement for two related reasons:
- First, it is the collective impact of NFM that is required, meaning that the interventions are required over a wide area of the catchment before the benefit of reduced flood risk is reached.
- Second the land on which NFM is undertaken will be owned and managed by a wide range of people who in order to implement these interventions need to understand NFM and buy into the overall project and its impact on the catchment.
A selection of images from the flood management conference.