Tide turns on flood dangers

A new planning blueprint which appears to show a diminished flood risk in low-lying areas of Great Yarmouth could help to regenerate areas stifled by earlier assessments.

A new planning blueprint which appears to show a diminished flood risk in low-lying areas of Great Yarmouth could help to regenerate areas stifled by earlier assessments.

The latest strategic flood risk document issued by consultants Capita Symonds shows riverside areas like Cobholm, Southtown and Runham Vauxhall to be in a better position than had been previously thought.

Mick Castle, whose council ward includes central and Northgate areas, hailed the document as a “page-turning” moment in Yarmouth's history.

He said he hoped the new information would help planners to allow new schemes, take a more flexible and localised approach and help re-shape the borough's emergency response to flooding.

He added that with companies like 1st East waiting in the wings to develop large swathes of riverside there was a need to keep investing in order to regenerate.

Mr Castle said: “We need to reflect the new flood maps in how we deal with flood readiness. Last time out, two years ago, the police tried to evacuate 10,000 people between Beatty Road and the Pleasure Beach.

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“What I am asking the council to do is review the plans. It is a waste of money and resources to evacuate people who are not at risk and to give them sandbags when they do not need them. We need a realistic assessment of the flood risk.

“Once the planning department starts using this map, people that might

have been having difficulty with flood risk might find things easier. It is very good news for the Urban Regeneration Company and for people in Yarmouth who were probably very anxious.

“I would say it is a page-turning moment in terms of what we understand about how flooding affects Yarmouth and allows us to be more vocal about calling for defences.”

The crucial document includes around 250 images mapping a variety of both likely and improbable scenarios and has been a year in the making.

Sarah Slade, senior policy planner at Yarmouth Borough Council, said a computer modelling system had been used to predict the impact of flood events and to add an extra layer of detail to the current Environment Agency maps.

It was this more detailed approach differentiating between high and low risk zones and taking account of climate change that had created an apparently improved picture, she added.

The information could also be used by insurers to more accurately assess flood risk and premiums, possibly helping some households who struggle to find cover.

Erica Whettingsteel, project manager at 1st East said: “We are encouraged by the findings of the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment in that it reveals that the flood risk in some areas of the town is less than had previously been thought. However, we are not complacent and there are still significant challenges relating to flood risk.

“We work closely with the borough council and in particular the Environment Agency, with whom we meet regularly, to ensure that all planned developments are safe in the event of flooding. Its good news in that we can press on with bringing forward developments in the priority regeneration areas of the town.”

The new, more detailed, strategic maps modelled using local information are said to give a better picture of what might happen than Environment Agency maps which do not take into account defences and show the maximum consequences of an extreme flood outline.

David Glason, planning policy manager, said: “It helps us because we can see the flood zones and where the risks have diminished.”

Peter Warner, head of planning policy at Yarmouth Borough Council said the flood risk appeared reduced according to the new plan, but that the issue was complicated and still being interpreted. “We are still working out the implications, it is early days yet,” he added.

To view the maps visit the borough council's website at www.great-yarmouth.gov.uk

Caption a) In contrast to the 2005 Environment Agency map the latest Capita version shows clearly the high risk areas in dark blue (the flood plain) taking account of existing defences, with lower risk areas shown in light blue where development may be allowed subject to it passing a series of tests

b)The less detailed Environment Agency map does not zone risk areas or take account of defences or the source of flooding.