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Community Payback helps prevent flooding

Luci Isaacson of Climate Vision describes a project to reduce the risk of repeat flooding in Lostwithiel in Cornwall, while delivering wider benefits to the local community. The project was developed following Luci’s research into the area’s floods, as part of Exeter University’s climate change and risk management masters programme.

Climate Vision aims to help people find enterprising solutions for environmental problems, in order to address climate change without fear, loathing and huge cost implications.

Local floods are often exacerbated by blocked drains, with leaf litter frequently preventing efficient drain usage. Blocked roadside drains were partially blamed for the 2007 floods in Hull, prompting research at the University of Hull.

Drain clearing is the responsibility of the highway authorities but is expensive and labour intensive. The Pitt Report on the 2007 floods identified a need to reduce the risks of flooding through clear responsibility and improved understanding of each local authority’s drainage and watercourse system.

Lostwithiel floodsFlooding in Lostwithiel, 2007

Residents affected by the November 2010 flood in Lostwithiel in Cornwall also felt leaf litter had a significant impact on the effects of the flood and needed to be addressed, prompting Climate Vision to initiate a pilot project to measure and remove leaf litter from drains throughout the autumn fall. To better understand the effects of heavy rainfall in the local catchment areas, Climate Vision attended local flood meetings to ask residents where they thought drainage problems were occurring.

The project aimed to help alleviate one part of a flooding problem, generate awareness of simple preventative measures, and produce a valuable resource by composting the collected leaf litter. Expertise, training and manpower were brought together by working in partnership with Cornwall Council’s highways authority, Devon & Cornwall Probation Trust, Environment Agency, Lostwithiel Town Council, Cornwall Waste Action and the University of Hull.

Community payback

Devon & Cornwall Probation Trust coordinated offenders on Community Payback to work on the project, with certified training on working in the road provided by the highways authority. Cornwall Waste Action provided further training in turning the leaf litter into soil conditioner, and provided the sacks for collection of litter.

The participating offenders were engaged beyond simply crossing off hours of community payback. Invited to contribute to the project method, those involved were given the opportunity to meet flood victims to learn about the flooding and how climate change will increase the likelihood of such events. The team gained valuable experience and skills in alleviating environmental problems.

Rob Menary, Chief Executive of Devon & Cornwall Probation Trust, explained the project’s benefits to offenders:

“Working with local groups and Climate Vision in this very public project has given offenders a real opportunity to contribute something back to communities at the same time as improving their environmental awareness and employment skills. Offenders on ‘Community Payback’ in Devon and Cornwall undertake 150,000 hours of work each year and do make a major contribution to safer and cleaner neighbourhoods. Projects that improve the environment are becoming an every greater proportion of our work and this has been a fantastic opportunity to reduce the risk of flooding. Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust has also been nominated for a national wildlife and environment award in recognition of our work in these areas.”

During the clearing sessions many residents personally thanked the community payback team for their work. Lostwithiel Town Council will present offenders with certification of thanks in reducing the potential of flooding.

Doing small things well for a big impact

Steve Bayley, Highway Manager, welcomed the project’s innovative approach:

“The Leaf Litter Project headed by Luci Isaacson is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through innovation and the utilisation of alternative resources in financially challenging times. I am delighted to see that the project has achieved demonstrable results in such a short space of time for the benefit of the local community. Hopefully, with continuing success, this can be seen as a potential model for the future”.

Neighbouring areas with flooding problems are now hoping to follow this combined, low carbon and sustainable approach. The last week of October 2011 saw the same amount of rainfall as the flooding event of last year, falling over 9 hour rather than last years 1-2 hour event. Luckily, Lostwithiel escaped further flooding, though some nearby areas suffered.

Neighbouring areas with flooding problems are now hoping to follow this combined, low carbon and more sustainable approach. The last week of October 2011 saw the same amount of rainfall as the flooding event of 2010, though falling over 9 hours rather than 2010′s one to two hour event. Lostwithiel escaped further flooding, though some nearby areas suffered.

Dr. Stephan Harrison, Director of the Climate Change Risk Management masters programme at Exeter University, praised the project’s contribution to climate change resilience:

“Making communities resilient to climate change and extreme weather is often a case of doing small things well that have a big impact. This is an excellent example [..].”

User comments

  1. paul bright says:

    great work Luci, simple, effective and joined up

  2. Ruth Grant says:

    A fantastic project! Climate Vision has such huge potential, I am looking forward to seeing more of Luci Isaacson’s work. As a Business Development Adviser at Truro & Penwith College she has my full support.

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