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‘Waving not drowning!’: Gloucestershire's Inquiry into the 2007 Summer Flooding Emergency Carolyn Roberts 1, Steve Owen 2, Matt Reed 2 and Owain Jones.

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Presentation on theme: "‘Waving not drowning!’: Gloucestershire's Inquiry into the 2007 Summer Flooding Emergency Carolyn Roberts 1, Steve Owen 2, Matt Reed 2 and Owain Jones."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘Waving not drowning!’: Gloucestershire's Inquiry into the 2007 Summer Flooding Emergency Carolyn Roberts 1, Steve Owen 2, Matt Reed 2 and Owain Jones 2 University of Gloucestershire, UK 1 Centre for Active Learning 2 Countryside and Community Research Institute This research was supported by the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council’s ‘FREE’ Programme


3 What will be included? Learning about the flood: overview of Gloucestershire’s 2007 flood event as a ‘wicked problem’ (Rittel and Webber, 1973) Learning from the flood: evaluation of Gloucestershire County Council’s Scrutiny Inquiry as a legitimate democratic process and social learning mechanism for adaptive management where there are wicked problems (Petts and Leach, 2000; Collins and Ison, 2006; Pahl-Wostl, 2006; WFD)

4 ‘In terms of scale, complexity and duration, this is simply the largest peacetime emergency we’ve seen’ Chief Constable, Dr. Tim Brain Thousands of properties flooded, on floodplains and in settlements of all sizes in Gloucestershire and surrounding counties Inundation, contamination, life-threatening disruption to core services for over 400,000 Subsidence, stress, illness and other contingent losses £3 Billion (estimated) insured damage, and some permanent losses of business and industry Incipient ‘civil disorder’

5 A ‘1 in 400+ year’ event? 1 st June to 31 st August: 200-250% long term average rainfall across most of the County. Four main ‘episodes’ July 2007: 400-450% long term average rainfall 20 th July: 78mm in 12 hours widely, peaking at 110mm in 2 hrs locally (1 in 443 yrs estim). 2 months rainfall in 12 hours.


7 Gloucestershire’s 3-stage sequence 19 th July 2007 Met Office forecast ‘a major rainfall event’ 20 th July Exceptionally heavy and persistent rainfall. Localised and severe flash flooding. County Emergency Service goes live at 2.15pm. Helicopter rooftop rescues; travellers trapped; rest centres established 21 st July Rain continued but most flash flooding receded 22 nd July Major river flooding began in Severn, Avon and Churn catchments. Water supplies from Mythe WTP lost 23 rd July Power lost from Castlemeads; Walham saved 24 th July Priority to bottled water and bowser deliveries 25 th July 900 bowsers in operation 27 th July 3 million litres water delivered per day, and rising Severe weather warning again….. 6 th August ‘Emergency’ moved to ‘Recovery’ January 2009 Some residents still in temporary homes

8 Flooding exceeded 1947 extent, especially further South in Severn catchment

9 Approximately 4000 houses and 500 businesses flooded in July 2007, in Gloucestershire alone Flooding included old and new properties, on ‘non-floodplain’ urban areas







16 Single critical points of failure emerged, such as water treatment plants, electricity stations and motorways c. 350,000 people lacked safe piped water supply for up to 21 days c. 10,000 people trapped on flooded M5 motorway for up to 18 hours


18 Castlemeads and Walham Electricity Sub-Stations


20 ‘Wicked’ problems (Rittel and Webber,1973) Poorly formulated and complex issues A multiplicity of actors or stakeholders Competing value systems Ambiguous terminology Spatial and temporal interdependency, and Lack of clear end points

21 Urban runoff effects in Longlevens, Gloucester


23 ‘Wicked’ problems Wicked planning problems defy traditional linear solutions, and require new, more fluid ways of thinking. Solutions are usually ‘better’ or ‘worse’ rather than absolute, but decisions must nevertheless be made in the light of these uncertainties

24 Overview and Scrutiny Key feature of local government modernisation agenda (Local Government Act 2000) Part of democratic renewal of local government Seeks to enhance effectiveness of elected members through good governance

25 Overview and Scrutiny Overview and Scrutiny should ensure: Openness Transparency Accountability Responsiveness Sound ethical conduct throughout partnerships

26 Overview and Scrutiny Overview and Scrutiny should tangibly: Hold decision makers to account Support effective and beneficial policies Contribute to continuous improvement of services Positively impact on work and outcomes of external agencies

27 Scrutiny Inquiries Scrutiny Inquiries are a principal instrument of ‘Overview and Scrutiny’ and are used to examine: Success of policies Effectiveness of processes Extent to which problems have been solved Impact of work of external agencies

28 The Scrutiny Inquiry into the Summer Emergency 2007 Managed by Gloucestershire County Council Undertaken by selected elected Councillors, supported by senior officers, legal team and a Technical Advisor. These are local decision makers Purpose of Scrutiny arrangements is normally to ‘hold the Council Executive to account’ before and after decisions Focus on ‘lessons learned’ by stakeholders Aligned with EU pressure for stakeholder engagement in decision making about water

29 Scrutiny Inquiry operation 11-week period from end August 2007 to end November 2007 included four public hearings (‘Select Committee’ style) with cross examination of major witnesses, plus seven other local meetings for the public to address elected representatives Research, questionnaires, house-to-house enquiries Report with 75 recommendations to Council, then Government (via Pitt Review) 12 months of follow up scrutiny

30 Public Hearing cross- examinees included.. Environment Agency Four District Councils Glos CC Emergency Management Service Severn Trent Water National Grid Glos CC Community and Adult Care Directorate Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service Glos CC Planning Officers SW Regional Assembly Planning Officers National Flood Forum Gloucestershire Highways Gloucestershire First Tewkesbury Town Council Longlevens Community Groups BBC Radio Gloucestershire Gloucestershire Constabulary Glos CC Recovery and Infrastructure Resilience Local Resilience Forum

31 Scrutiny Inquiry Report Sections relating to The emergency response Watercourses, drains and sewers Land use planning process Single points of failure Communications Recovery and future resilience, including local people and communities

32 The Planning Process ‘The Inquiry has examined the issue of developments on the floodplain, and the role of the Environment Agency in the process. However, the Inquiry has not been able to investigate this complex issue in detail and is therefore proposing a further task-group to tackle issues relating to flood risk, land use planning and new developments’

33 Post Inquiry Inquiry reported rapidly, by November 2007 Report was effectively written by Officers with Chair and Technical support, and legal oversight It informed draft national Pitt Review Sub groups established, and a National Flood Forum for Local Government First review of progress in January 2008; ‘Final’ review in July 2008, but elements continue Temporary accommodation continued in use for more than 18 months

34 GLIF exploration methodology Participant observation Analysis of documentation (including verbatim transcripts) Extended semi- structured interviews with 38 stakeholders, within and beyond the Inquiry Some quasi-quantitative responses (e.g. Likert scale) and rich ‘narrative’ data Text analysis, comparing national to local reports

35 Elected Members Local Authority Officers Public and Voluntary Agencies Businesses and Private Sector Agencies Individuals and Others Grouping Stakeholders

36 Evaluation against criteria, based on stakeholders’ perspectives such as: Inclusiveness Transparency Learning Efficiency Efficacy Legitimacy Davies et al (2003)

37 Inclusiveness? “We could have been more inclusive if the constitution had permitted” “People were so traumatised and angry…there should have been more of that…we needed more public meetings” “This was not a party political matter” “Public would not necessarily have the level of understanding of what went on”

38 Transparency? “ People in the arena needed to be able to express a view, but also the process had to be seen to be done” “..hearing bad management to which people admitted…free discussion…I was surprised by admissions” “Truth was not always secured. Statements were made which were not all true but which were reported as if they were. There was no evidence in some cases”

39 Learning? “The Police participation in the SI was a big step for them in terms of accountability” “I found the experience quite emotional. It has changed the way I look at the world; it was a powerful experience for me. I will never look at heavy rain again in the same way. I will be thinking, oh dear, how saturated is the ground…runoff…how full are the rivers? This is partly the result of the floods, but also a result of the Inquiry..the impact of the building on the hill would never have crossed my mind…how everything has a knock-on effect…we all learned something”

40 Efficiency? “It was a good piece of work overall. It focussed people on getting things sorted…I honestly feel we will be better prepared” “It was rigid, but a degree of rigidity is necessary” “At the end of it there is still a feeling that there is more to find out and there are still people who haven’t been asked”

41 Efficacy? “The Scrutiny Inquiry pushed back barriers much further than people recognised” “Findings from the public meetings (across the County) came in too late to assist in shaping the text” “It has influenced national policy…when I read Pitt, I thought ‘that sounds like us, that comes from us’” “Glos County Council should be providing community makes democracy relevant. We led it and we brought it about”

42 Legitimacy? “The primary purpose of the Inquiry was to inform Pitt” “We were prepared to hold this in an area outside our comfort zone” “Needed to ensure that the process could not be challenged as inadequate or biased” “I have realised it is all about perception, not about what actually happened necessarily…this process was a good way of engaging”


44 Conclusions Scrutiny Inquiry was effective as a social learning exercise at this level, and can be seen as part of ‘adaptive management’ strategies Inquiry Chairing and conduct was exemplary Stakeholder representation was generally excellent (only two prospective witnesses declined to appear) and witnesses appeared appropriately open and reflective Councillors needed technical support Much testimony was emotionally charged Minor but locally important matters were exceptionally well handled

45 Conclusions continued.. Wider national planning policy implementation issues for landscape development (e.g. floodplain occupancy) and SuDS could not be addressed adequately. Transport, health and flooding were also less adequately covered Councillors were challenged by the scientific concept of an event too extreme to be controlled, and by issues around spatial and temporal interdependency ‘Wicked’ nature of problem proved challenging for the Inquiry mechanism. Education programme is required for full engagement


47 Bibliography Collins, K and Ison, R (2006) Dare we jump off Arnstein’s ladder? Social learning as a new policy paradigm. Proceedings of the Participatory Approaches in Science and Technology Conference, 4 th -7 th June, 2006, Edinburgh. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2004) Making Space for Water: Developing a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England – a consultation exercise. London: DEFRA. 154pp Department for Communities and Local Government (2006) Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and the flood risk. London: HMSO 50pp Environment Agency (2005) Sustainable Drainage Systems: A guide for developers. Environment Agency, (Accessed 22nd February 2008) Johnson, C.L, Tunstall, S.M, and Penning-Rowsell, E.C. (2007) Crises as catalysts for adaptation: Human response to major floods. Flood Hazard Research Centre Publication No 511, 189 pp Norton, B.G. (2005) Sustainability: a philosophy of adaptive ecosystem management. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 608pp Pahl-Wostl, C. (2006) The importance of social learning in restoring the multifunctionality of rivers and floodplains. Ecology and Society 11(1): 10 and (Accessed 22 nd February 2008) Petts J. and Leach B. (2000) Evaluating methods for public participation. EA R&D Technical Report E135. EA: Bristol Pitt, M (2007) Learning lessons from the 2007 floods: An independent review by Sir Michael Pitt. London: Cabinet Office, (Accessed 22nd February 2008) Rittel, H and Webber, M. (1973) Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, pp 155-169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Amsterdam: Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc. Wilson, S, Bray, R. and Cooper, P. (2004) Sustainable drainage systems: Hydraulic, structural and water quality advice. London: CIRIA. 324pp

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