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BRISTOL: Aging stormwater drains

BRISTOL: Aging stormwater drains

Source: Amanda Cameron.

Bristol’s aging stormwater drains need to be upgraded to prevent local flooding linked to climate change, but the work could be left behind in the fight for scarce council funds.

The fierce competition for funding to fix “hundreds of millions of pounds of degraded [infrastructure] assets” in the city became apparent at a meeting of scrutiny councillors on Tuesday (November 16).

Cllr Tim Rippington raised the issue of local drains during a discussion about the threats facing Bristol City Council, including the “high” risk of flooding that is only set to increase with the rising sea levels and increasingly heavy rainfalls linked to climate change.

The Brislington East representative referred to flooding that affected people’s homes some months ago in the Woodcroft Road area of St Anne’s after a period of heavy rain.

He said: “I’ve had an example in my ward of localised flooding, and the response that I had when I raised it [with the council] was to say that the only way to resolve this kind of flooding, which did come into people’s houses, was the drainage would have to be redesigned to a higher storm intensity.

“If we have an infrastructure that is no longer capable of managing the levels of storm intensity that we’re getting in places, that’s an enormous piece of work.”

Stephen Peacock, who is the senior officer in charge of flood risk, said the council was prioritising its flood prevention efforts on two major projects: the new flood defences being built at Avonmouth and Severnside, and its River Avon Flood Strategy, for which it still needs to find £120million.

The executive director of growth and regeneration said there was limited funding available for a “long tail of smaller projects” to tackle local flooding.

“In terms of infrastructure deficit, the city has hundreds of millions of pounds of degraded assets that require that kind of investment,” Mr Peacock said.

He said it may be possible to fund some of that work through the £540million of government funding awarded to the West of England Combined Authority in October as part of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement.

“But we have to make decisions based on a restricted amount of funding every year,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is the constraints we’re working to.

“So the main priority at the moment is to find a solution to the River Avon Flood Strategy and a funding gap of over £120 million.

“Clearly there will be ongoing work across the city as part of our upgrades and our work on other transport priorities.”

The council’s ruling Labour administration approved the Bristol Avon Flood Strategy in March, which sets out the preferred approach of introducing ‘adaptive raised defences” to manage the risk of flooding from the river in Bristol.

The capital cost of phase one of the project is estimated at £216million, of which £88m to £123m has been identified in principle, according to cabinet papers.

Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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