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How to Reduce Flood Risk From Autumn Leaves

It’s that time of year again and autumn is upon us! In addition to the falling leaves, for many of those who have been affected by flooding it also signifies the start of the ‘wetter’ months which take us right the way through winter. The incremental resurfacing of permeable land with impermeable hard standing, such as with new housing developments, or when front gardens are resurfaced and made into driveways (known as urban creep), means our drainage infrastructure is required to play an ever more critical role in preventing surface water build up.

Did you know… During an hour’s storm, enough rain may fall on a driveway to fill three bathtubs!

A critical point in the process of removing rainfall from urban areas is the highway gully. Gullies are highly vulnerable at this time of year and require all the help they can get to ensure they remain free from blockages. A handful of wet leaves covering the grating of a gully is all it takes to completely prevent water entering the drainage system beneath.

While it is the responsibility of the highways authority to ensure gullies remain free and clear of blockages, many highways departments have seen huge cutbacks to their budgets in recent years resulting in fewer gully wagons on the road. At county level, a highways authority can be responsible for several hundred thousand individual gullies with only a handful of gully wagons to maintain them. Even though highways authorities may be able to prioritise higher risk areas to some degree, the reality is that a single gully could become covered with leaves again within hours of being cleaned.

Blocked gulley, Dundonald (October 2015) by Albert Bridge [CA BY-SS 2.0]

What can we do? Apart from a means of exercise and fresh air, walking also provides the opportunity to monitor local highway gullies. Take the dog (if you have one) and walk a different route of the local area to log any issues; and don’t forget to take pictures on your camera phone! If it’s just surface leaves on the grating, and it’s safe to do so, scraping them off and to the side of the grating with your shoe (beneath the grating if on a slope) will have a massive benefit. Be careful not to push them out into the street within the line of cyclists or move them onto the pavement where they can become slippy and hazardous to pedestrians. Never try to open or lift a gully grating and report more serious issues and blockages through to your highways department. If they don’t know about the issue, they can’t resolve the problem.

If you need to report an issue, your highways authority will either be your District Council (providing it is a unitary authority), or the County Council. If you’re unsure, you can find out by entering your postcode on the following link: www.gov.uk/find-local-council. You may find you have both a district council and a county council, so after you’ve entered your postcode, look to see which one is responsible for Transport. The council responsible for highways is usually also responsible for providing education and social care. When reporting blocked drains, you will often need to provide the location of the drain, a description and email address (if you have one). If reporting a problem online, you may also be able to upload photographs of the issue. Another useful link: www.gov.uk/report-blocked-drain.

Closer to home, we can collectively help to manage rainfall and reduce surface water build up by cleaning the pipes, gutters and drains in and around our properties. Fallen leaves can be composted or placed inside the green waste bin. Homeowners are responsible for all onsite drainage up to the boundary of their property. In the case of a shared section of drain, where several neighbouring properties’ drains meet before joining a public sewer, the responsibility for maintenance then falls to the water company; United Utilities in the North West. If this applies to your property and you need to report a blockage, you can contact United Utilities on 0345 672 3723.

For more information on everything mentioned above, including home flood planning, flood insurance, alternative sandbags and property level protection, visit The Flood Hub at www.thefloodhub.co.uk. You can contact the Newground Flood Team via telephone on 01254 265163, or via email on flood@newground.co.uk.

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