After a December which was the wettest month ever recorded in the UK, flood defences and action plans have never been more important.
One only needs to look to the north of the country to see the devastating damage caused by flooding, and the frightening speed at which it can take hold.
So, it’s little surprise a meeting discussing the Seahaven Flood Plan and its future was so well-attended.
Held at Seaford Baptist Church on Thursday evening (January 14), the meeting saw experts from the Environment Agency, Sussex Police, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Lewes District and Seaford Town Councils come together with stakeholders in the town to discuss the current flood action plan, and steps to improve it going forward.
The Seahaven Flood Plan is a site-specific response plan covering Seaford, New haven, South Heighton, Tarring Neville, Piddinghoe and Southease, with the aim of providing a framework for the co-ordinated inter-agency response to flooding or the threat of flooding.
Whenever a flood alert is issued by the Environment Agency, it acts as a trigger to fire the flood plan, which can be viewed in full on the Seaford Town Council website, into action. From there, various responses will be considered depending on the severity of the flood threat.
The purpose of the meeting was not only to make people aware of the processes involved in flood protection, but also discuss how it can be improved to better help the town’s residents.
Lewes District and Town Councillor for Seaford South, Sam Adeniji, said: “Seaford Town Council’s flood defence working group was founded with a focus on three things: to educate, reassure and engage fellow Seafordians to the rescue and emergency plans in place in case of a flood in Seaford. We want to reassure you there is an effective plan in place. We want to engage with you, drawing on your knowledge and experience to see how you can help before, during and after a flood, and to see how you can work with us to raise awareness in the wider community about flooding and flood prevention.”
While the Seahaven Flood Plan is a comprehensive document outlining the necessary actions in the case of coastal or river flooding, attendees at the meeting - in particular, residents of Brooklyn Road, which is prone to flooding during periods of increased rainfall - expressed concern about the lack of an action plan in case of surface water flooding.
Jo Higgs, from the Environment Agency, said residents would have to be responsible for alerting the EA to surface flooding, and it would be this communication that would trigger the Seahaven Flood Plan.
On that topic, the possibility of a contacts database was discussed, whereby relevant agencies able to offer help would give their details to Seaford Town Council. The council would then compile the data into one document accessible to the public, so residents can know who to call in the case of flooding in their street.
The option of creating a community flood action group was also discussed. This is something which has worked successfully in other areas of the UK with the aim of being a representative voice for their community, working in partnership with agencies and authorities.
Stakeholders present at the meeting, which included representatives from Seaford Lifeguards, Seaford Chamber of Commerce and Seaford Churches Together, were asked what help they could offer to a community flood action group. This included things such as circulating information and leaflets to members, joining a town council contacts register and providing vehicles and support during a flood.
The response was extremely positive and will now be collated by the council.
A flood fair is also in the process of being organised, whereby members of the public will be welcome to view the town’s flood actions plans and have their say.
Maria Caulfield MP closed the meeting by saying: “It’s really important to have a robust action plan in place so residents know what to do and who to contact.
“This is such valuable work and if we never have to use it, fantastic. Time is of the essence when flooding happens. This plan could save a property or, more importantly, it could save a life.”
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