Barnstaple flood prevention scheme at least two years away

Flooding in and around the Square in Barnstaple. Picture: Simon Ellery

Flooding in and around the Square in Barnstaple. Picture: Simon Ellery - Credit: Simon Ellery

A scheme to protect against a repeat of the flash flooding in Barnstaple last summer which was Devon’s worst flooding incident in over a decade is likely to be at least two years away. 

The torrential rain on August 17, 2020, left parts of the town under as much as 3ft of water reported in places, while traffic came to a standstill as floodwater made the town impassable. 

Barnstaple town centre and the Square were hit badly, and the A361 and the A39 were both blocked due to flooding, causing congestion on the surrounding roads, and the flooding, which was Devon’s worst flood event in a single location since 2010, saw 118 residential and 46 commercial properties flooded. 

North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee meeting on Monday morning, receiving a flood investigation report on the incident, heard that the flooding event was as a result of high intensity rainfall that was very localised over the town of Barnstaple, and that it would not be until 2023 at the earliest that a prevention scheme would be in place. 

Martin Hutchings, Devon County Council’s flood and coastal risk manager, added: “This created significant volumes of surface water that overwhelmed the drainage systems to the extent that they were unable to drain away effectively. Once the peak of the storm passed the systems were able to catch up and within a few hours the flood water had drained away, leaving much devastation behind.” 


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He said that the flooding didn’t occur in one single location and that they ‘cannot built a wall in one location to solve the problem’, but they were looking at what we can do to get a scheme developed, but often it takes around five years for one to implement. 

General actions recommended as a result of the flooding by Mr Hutchings including reviewing highway gullies and consider whether any maintenance issues require attention, for South West Water to continue a maintenance regime and consider storm separation where appropriate, to encourage sustainable drainage practices for new developments, and also for Devon County Council to continue to progress with the Barnstaple surface water investigation to consider preferred options and opportunities for securing funding and resources for potential flood improvement works. 

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