Let’s Be Frank

Everything You Need To Know
About Fighting Floods . . .

Flooding is not rare in a country that gets more than its fair share of wet weather, but the impact of Storm Frank across the UK has been truly shocking.

Floods have caused upheaval and misery for thousands of homeowners and businesses, brought traffic chaos and left many homes without power.

And still the waters show no signs of abating.

The link between floods and climate change, of course, is undeniable – the UK Climate Projections of 2009 predict a sea level rise of up to 76cm by 2095.

Only global action can tackle such a global problem and the deal agreed at the recent climate change summit in Paris to try to limit global temperature rises to less than 2C is surely welcome.

There are, however, ways to directly combat the floods on our own doorsteps right here, right now.

River management

When rivers burst their banks, chaos ensues.

The first line of defence against this must be to take preemptive action.

Removing the build-up of silt from rivers and streams deepens channels and allows water to flow more freely – and, of course, stay where it’s supposed to be.

A side-effect of dredging is the potential danger of faster water causing floods downstream, so to encourage a river to slow down, any management plan should also factor in, where possible, allowing the watercourse to meander in long loops.

To prevent a deluge in urban areas further downstream, there is also the option of allowing a watercourse to reconnect with its natural flood plain, often low-lying fields.

Simple actions, simple solutions.

Habitat protection

At Greenbelt we’re passionate about maintaining and nurturing green spaces and trees in particular ­– and with good reason.

Trees can act as a natural flood defence: their root systems not only hold together the fabric of banks and hillsides but also loosen deep soil so that surface water drains away more easily.

That’s why Greenbelt takes management of trees very seriously. As stewards of green spaces across the UK, we tend to thousands of trees, such as Glenrothes Woodlands.

This one area alone has a water uptake of 151.9 million gallons every year!

It also intercepts a further 110.9 million gallons annually – meaning that it contributes hugely to flood prevention.

Flood defences and SUDS

There has been much criticism during Storm Frank about the effectiveness of existing flood barriers and adequate funding for them.

Even when new defences are built and are effective, this can simply push the problem to an unprotected area.

The fact is the vast majority of us live in built-up areas, with our homes surrounded by impenetrable concrete and Tarmac.

That’s why Greenbelt has been so proactive in managing Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, or SUDS, on more than 100 sites right across the UK.

On these developments Greenbelt’s SUDS management – including inspection and ‘real time’ reporting – ensures security and protection for homeowners.

Using a series of interconnected ponds, swales, basins and zones of specialised vegetation, SUDS offer temporary storage of excess rainwater.

They efficiently intercept and retain excess rainfall before releasing it back into local waterways, which is done at a limited rate to prevent the kind of catastrophes witnessed during Storm Frank.

Response teams

Not only does Greenbelt manage the use of SUDS in new home developments, we also have a team of experts who offer a fast response to any new flood risk.

As well as continually monitoring severe weather patterns, especially during high alerts such as Storm Frank, they continually assess how the SUDS are handling water at each of our sites.

Greenbelt’s innovative and industry-leading digital system of ‘real time reporting’ from developments means information can be collected immediately at Greenbelt HQ and action taken almost at once.

Janet McQuillan, Greenbelt’s Head of Operational Services, notes: “Our out-of-hours staff are always on hand to take calls about possible flooding. This means we can immediately put in place our emergency procedures.”

To date, every one of Greenbelt’s homeowner customers has been kept safe and dry, thanks to SUDS and our on-call response teams.

Find out more about how Greenbelt helps customers stay safe from flooding here.

Defend yourself: SUDS save property and money

According to accountancy firm KPMG, the overall cost of the floods that have hit huge areas of the UK could reach more than £5 billion.

It also claims homeowners and businesses hit by floods are actually underinsured by as much as £1 billion.

While it will be of little consolation right now to those already affected, lessons learned during Storm Frank could help this kind of damage happening again in the longer term.

One major improvement will be the increased use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) to protect new housing.

As an industry leader in the use of the system, Greenbelt has proved SUDS to be a green, clean and cost-effective way to remove surface water and the danger of flooding.

Not only do Greenbelt homeowners enjoy better flood defences, but SUDS also help to safeguard their house values – while keeping insurance premiums lower.

Find out more about how SUDS can save you money here.