Flooding Update – 18 February 2014

From: Tetstall, Roger [mailto:RTetstall@testvalley.gov.uk]
Sent: 18 February 2014 20:15
To: Councillors
Cc: All TVBC Staff
Subject: Flooding Update

Dear Councillor

Romsey remains the focus of most external attention.  Phase 2 of the Project is continuing and I understand that the Army engineers are still working on site, with a view to implementing a modified solution at 21 00 hours this evening.  The good news is that the flow in the Fishlake Stream is dropping and, crucially, that it is no longer over-topping.  It was this over-topping which was scouring the base of the bank and weakening it.  This is presumed to be a consequence of the reduced levels of rainfall as well as the preliminary small piece of diversionary work carried out by the Army a little higher upstream on Saturday.  Needless to say, the Environment Agency are busy measuring flows at various points along the river.

The lack of over-topping has also offered the opportunity, in the course of the day, for TVBC and HCC colleagues to work together to reopen both Budds Lane and the A3057 Greatbridge Road.  This has, of course, resulted in the removal of the Environment Agency’s flood barrier from underneath the Greatbridge Road railway bridge.  It is notable, however, that there is still water on the road and it is hoped that motorists will drive responsibly.  Sadly, this has not been the case at many locations across the Borough where people are driving too fast through standing water and generating bow waves which cause damage to adjacent properties or flood defences.

The Causeway in Romsey (a private road servicing some 5 properties)  was closed in the course of the day as it was deemed unsafe.  There has been some erosion of the river bank in this location and there are concerns about the impact of the water coming over the top of the unmade road, below which run electricity, gas and sewage services.  There will be a site meeting involving HCC, TVBC and the utilities companies along with the military in the morning to see whether it is possible to do something temporary to stop the bank eroding.

We have distributed about 900 sandbags today including 50 to Nun’s Walk Longparish and another 100 to Vernham Dean.  Pursuant to arrangements with Cllr Peter Giddings, we have had a number of staff in the village today and, tomorrow, we anticipate that some 1500 sandbags will be deployed to the school at Vernham Dean together with 20 military personnel – with a view to re-directing the flow of water away from the school in order to alleviate some of the requirement for pumping.

Indeed the Bourne Rivulet villages and also Kings Somborne remain a principal source of concern.  We are still trying to get Southern Water to respond to residents’ concerns about sewage in Kings Somborne and we have been pushing the Environment Agency to pursue suggestions which have come forward locally regarding damming and slowing the flow of the winterbournes.  I hope to be able to report more on this tomorrow.

I have today been provided with a document produced by HCC’s Public Health Team, Protecting Hampshire in the Floods, which is attached.  I should note that it refers to flood water rather than waste water because we should be assuming that all flood water is potentially contaminated.  We have also been alerting people to advice from SSE about electricity safety in flooded buildings.

Yesterday, we established an internal Recovery Group under the leadership of Bill Lynds.  This is a potentially sensitive issue because we must be scrupulous to ensure that we do not send out any messages suggesting that the battle is not still raging – because it is.  On the other hand, we need to start planning now for what is going to be an enormous operation to clean up and to meet a whole new range of needs for residents and businesses.

Leading on form this, and further to the reference that I made in yesterday’s update,  information about Funding Packages is flowing almost as fast as the Test.  I am attaching a note produced by DCLG today.  We are in fact starting to receive enquiries from businesses about the financial assistance and reliefs which might be available to them.  Once we have clarity around details of the various schemes, we are proposing to use the addresses of businesses that we extracted from the Flood Warning modelling process in order to write to them personally with the relevant information.

And finally I enclose Stuart Jarvis’s latest missive. [See Below]

Regards.

Roger.

Roger Tetstall

Chief Executive

Test Valley Borough Council

Tel: 01264 368101

rtetstall@testvalley.gov.uk

 

 

FLOODING – SUPPORT AVAILABLE

1) Repair and Renew grant for all affected homeowners and businesses

The £5,000 grant will provide financial support for households and businesses to pay for repairs which improve a property’s ability to withstand future flooding.

Details of the grant will be published next week – week starting Monday 17 February [Postcript: I haven’t seen anything yet]

2) Business Support Scheme

A new Business Support Scheme worth up to £10million to provide hardship funding for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. Eligible businesses will be able to claim for funding for things like immediate clean-up costs, materials, and exceptional costs to help them continue trading.

Extra time for businesses to file accounts without any penalties. If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension and not collect the penalties which apply for late filings.

A Government Business Support Helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. The Helpline will offer a free 1 hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now;

3) Fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields

The government will make available up to £10 million for a one-off grant scheme designed to support farm businesses to restore flooded agricultural land and bring it back into production as quickly as possible

The fund will also help farmers introduce lasting and sustainable flood prevention measures to help secure future production once land is restored

The fund will be open for applications by the end of February – we will keep the application window open for as long as possible given uncertainty around flood water levels receding

The scheme will be open to all farm businesses that require support but will be targeted at those areas most affected by the flood crisis

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will announce further details and a single point of contact (for email, post and telephone) shortly.

4) Business taxes

All affected businesses will be able to apply to their local authority to get business rate relief for 3 months

Further detail will be announced shortly on the application process and eligibility

HMRC will also set up a new hotline for those who have been affected by flooding and may have difficulties in meeting their tax liabilities

in all cases HMRC will look to offer up to 3 months additional time to pay. This will cover all taxes owed to HMRC, including VAT, PAYE and corporation tax.

5) Severe Weather Recovery Scheme

The severe weather recovery scheme provides support to local authorities in England that incurred, or will incur recovery costs as a result of flooding caused by the east coast tidal surge on 5 and 6 December 2013 and/or severe weather up to 7 February 2014.

The scheme covers 2 elements: supporting communities and repairing local highway infrastructure. This funding is in addition to the Bellwin scheme, insurance and the existing central and local government obligations and programmes.

Separate recovery support arrangements for Somerset councils, which are currently in response and are expected to be for some time, will be agreed this financial year.

The deadline for applications is 19 February 2014.

6 Department for Transport (DfT) funding for local authorities

In addition to the SWRS, DfT will provide £30 million of additional funding for local authorities in England affected by the severe weather for road maintenance, including pothole repairs.

7. Support from the major banks

A total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods.

The packages include a mixture of repayment holidays, reduced or waived fees, loan extensions, increased flexibility of terms, and additional specialist support teams deployed on the ground. This support is being made available to businesses, farmers and individual customers in affected areas.

•RBS have already announced a £250 million interest free loan fund for affected businesses, and have extended this with an offer of repayment holidays for mortgage customers

•Lloyds and Barclays have today announced financial packages of around £250 million each

•HSBC, Santander and Nationwide have also announced extensive programmes of support for their affected business and individual customers

8. Bellwin Scheme

The scheme has been strengthened in response to the exceptional circumstances caused by the 2013 to 2014 winter’s flooding. The government will now pay 100% of the costs incurred above the threshold, rather than the usual 85%. The threshold has been reduced for all county councils and unitary authorities to make it easier for them to claim Bellwin support. A large proportion of those Bellwin payments are to be made available now, rather than waiting until the situation has cleared up before local authorities can make those claims. This means that local authorities will have access to the cash they need right now to deal with the pressing problems caused by the weather.

Hardship Scheme

We have discussed this scheme.  In a subsequent conversation I had with DWP, DWP advised that this is not a new scheme, but relates to the scheme previously administered by DWP and handed over to Local Authorities in April 2013.

DCLG, 18 February 2014