Developers should not 'cut corners' when designing drains on new estates

Developers should not cut corners when designing new housing estates’ drains, as substandard work increases flooding risk, a council cabinet member has said.

Councillors want fewer scenes like this in Telford neighbourhoods
Councillors want fewer scenes like this in Telford neighbourhoods

David Wright, whose Telford and Wrekin Council portfolio includes housing and infrastructure, also said builders need to think about run-off from their sites early in the construction process, not just when it is finished.

Environment Scrutiny Committee member Mark Boylan said heavy rains in August 2020 led to water flowing down the streets and lifting manhole covers out of position.

Colleague Tim Nelson said a newly-built Newport estate had been flooded out twice, and its streets were now lined with concrete blocks to deter another disaster.

Drainage and Flood Risk Team Leader Lucinda Lycett said that, after those summer floods, planners now required sites to have “sediment run-off schemes” active while they were a work-in-progress, not just when finished.

The committee was discussing a report by highways and engineering chief Adam Brookes about the council’s floodwater management strategy.

It said: “Last year saw a number of particularly severe flood events.

“Following Storm Dennis in February 2020, August 2020 saw heavy rainfall widespread across the borough that resulted in similar flooding to that experienced in 2007.”

Storm Christoph followed in February 2021, having a similar impact on Severn levels to 2020.

Councillor Boylan, who represents Ketley and Overdale, acknowledged Ironbridge suffered particularly badly because of its proximity to the river but said the August rains led to “manhole covers floating down the street” in Lawley and similar on-street water flow in Ketley.

Drainage systems on newly-built estates are initially the developers’ responsibility, until they are “adopted”, and become the council’s and Severn Trent Water’s responsibility.

Councillor Boylan asked whether there were any measures the council could take to ensure it wouldn’t be asked to adopt “bad infrastructure”.

Mr Brookes said his team works with the planning department and supervise new developments’ drainage systems.

Ms Lycett said all developments were asked to cater for a “one in 100-year” flood event and demonstrate a safe “exceedance flow” that minimises the effect if those drains were overwhelmed.

Councillor Wright: “One or two of those incidents in Lawley were related to development that was going to come forward or was on-site.

“I think we need to make sure that early work tackles some of those issues; drainage investment is a high priority at the front end of schemes and we ask developers to think about how water flow during development impacts on the area, not just at the end of the scheme.

“I think it’s important we make sure we hold developers’ feet to the fire on some of these issues in terms of making sure design is correct.

“What we’ve got to try and do is make sure that, as schemes come forward, in terms of design, you cannot cut corners in terms of drainage investment.

“It needs to be right and sustainable in the long term.”

Councillor Nelson, who represents Newport North and West, said residents on the Stonebridge estate in his ward had been “flooded out twice, and are now graced by concrete blocks along the side of the road”, adding that the town’s High Street and Boughey Road had also seen floods.

He said STW and the Environment Agency – “two bodies which have got such an impact and huge resources” – had their own responsibility to keep drains and the River Strine clear respectively.

Mr Brookes said his team was in “daily contact” with both them, and Councillor Wright assured the committee he received briefings whenever there was severe weather affecting anywhere in the borough, “not just Ironbridge”.

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