Arun flood-safety board to be set up following Storm Ciarán
The board was raised as an urgent matter at the full council meeting on Wednesday, November 8, after flooding following Storm Ciarán caused widespread damage across the district.
Council Leader Matt Stanley (LDem, Marine) said the flooding had brought together councillors across the chamber for the benefit of residents, with many members echoing it as a cross-party issue.
Council officers said the board would bring together bodies involved with flood prevention and response, such as West Sussex County Council, Southern Water, the Environment Agency and Arun District Council.
They said it would be to hold these bodies to account and co-ordinate flood response and recovery in Arun going forward.
The board will be chaired by an independent person, hopefully an academic on flooding or flood response.
Deputy opposition leader Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea) said her seven properties in her ward had been flooded and accused Southern Water of ‘exacerbating’ the problem.
“The sewage backed up and, at least four of those seven houses had not just [flooded] with the surface water, but with sewage into their gardens and into their houses,” she said.
“Southern Water has not,as yet, come and helped clean that out – going on a dozen phone calls from me, a number of phone calls from the MP, and goodness knows how many phone calls from the residents themselves. Southern Water had a part to play in the misery that our residents experienced.”
Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) said the full council should call an extraordinary meeting to interrogate Southern Water and other parties involved in the flood response and prevention.
Stephen McAuliffe (Green, Arundel & Walberton) said although the water company’s involvement was important, they would need to work co-operatively for a ‘long term’ solution.
He said: “This is going to take a concerted, long-term, ongoing effort with all of the relevant stakeholders around the table. Southern Water’s involvement in this is quite important, it’s their sewer network that’s overwhelmed.
“They know where the hotspots are, it’s their responsibility, along with West Sussex County Council, to identify those locations, identify those residents and undertake proactive clearing.
“Southern Water acts reactively, and that needs to be changed and that should be part of the focus of the environmental forum.”
Opposition Leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) criticised the Environment Agency for a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude towards the floods, and Arun District Coucnil for not posting anything about the storm on its social media accounts.
A Southern Water spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that pumping stations would never be turned off unless there was a health and safety concern, especially during flooding, adding a 300 per cent increase in rainfall led to an ‘extreme influx of water’ into its network.
The spokesperson added: “All of our pumping stations worked throughout the storm in the area barring one that had a national grid power failure. As a backup we mobilised a generator and tankers. Our response to Storm Ciarán was an around-the-clock operation in very testing circumstances.”
The spokesperson added the ‘biggest-ever’ tanker fleet, of 160, was deployed across the South East, and the company had communicated with hundreds of thousands of residents about safety by email and text.