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Climate Impacts Group Meeting Minutes, 21st June 2023

Attendees

Mark Rice
Alex Rainbow
Emily Reed
Doug Eltham
Alex Rainbow
Donna Sibley
John Galt
Laurence Couldrick
Emmanuelle Marshall
Paul Lunt
Paul Minshull
Rhys Hobbs
Louise Sawyer
Stephen Swabey
Richard Sweatman
Victoria Hatfield
Environment Agency (Chair) 
Cornwall Council 
Devon Climate Emergency 
Devon County Council (Natural Environment) 
Cornwall Council 
Torridge District and North Devon Councils 
Devon County Council (Flood and Coastal Risk) 
Westcountry Rivers Trust 
Plymouth City Council 
University of Plymouth 
Cornwall Council 
Cornwall Council 
Devon and Cornwall Police 
Council of the Isles of Scilly 
Devon and Cornwall Police  
Exeter City Council 

Apologies

Richard Saville
Jess Pryer
Nick Paling
Claire Below
Sara Gibbs
George Arnison
Tom Dauben
Carolyn Cadman
Maria Van Hove
Jacqui Warren
Ruth Rockley
Stacy Griffiths
Anya Gopfert
Lesley Newport
James Cooper
James Kershaw
Cornwall Council 
Met Office 
South West Water 
Cornwall Council 
Public Health Devon 
Environment Agency 
Environment Agency 
South West Water 
Public Health, Exeter University and Torbay Council 
Torbay Council 
Cornwall Council 
Wales & West Utilities  
Environment Agency / Torbay Council 
Environment Agency 
Environment Agency 
Devon County Council 

1. Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed as an accurate record.

All matters arising are scheduled for discussion on the main agenda.

2. Flood Event in East Devon – May 2023 

John Galt gave a presentation about the rainfall event on 9th May 2023 in East Devon.  

The centre of the rainfall was Tipton St John, Newton Poppleford and Collaton Raleigh, East Devon. 32mm of rainfall over a few hours was forecast. In actuality, over 3 hours 130mm fell. This is the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of rain. The peak rainfall intensity was monitored at 200mm/hr. These intensities suggest the event was in excess of a 1 in 100 year event, under current climate.  

This highlights the challenge of getting a message out to those who need it. 

The rainfall led to ordinary watercourses (under the jurisdiction of Devon CC) and main rivers (under the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency) breaking their banks. A considerable amount of sediment and debris was brought down river into the communities affected.   

Community engagement events have been run with the EA to give residents assistance and to build a more complete picture about what happened. The EA is taking the lead on discussions with landowners.  

With climate change, these events will become more regular. Devon CC wants to make sure people are better protected which is challenging due to funding, resource and the number of communities at risk. 

Laurence noted that the rainfall event coincided with an extended period of dry weather that will have formed a crust on the soil, which will have contributed to the rates of runoff from the agricultural land. Are we going to be able to better forecast flooding based on the combination of weather and ground conditions? Mark said that this will be part of the investigations and he will feed this into the process.  

Emily asked if mental health support has been offered? John advised that in the immediate aftermath, East Devon District Council was coordinating offers of financial support and housing support. Defra and the EA has acknowledged the mental health issues relating to flooding. The business case templates used to access national funding includes prompts for this.  

Donna asked if climate change is part of the conversations with residents, as the local agencies aren’t going to have the resources to protect everybody into the future. John agreed that adaptation conversations need to happen but these are challenging in the immediate aftermath of the event.  

Paul commented that previous incidents in South Gloucestershire have found that drainage ditches had been filled-in through changed land use and field boundaries. Historic field boundary maps can be helpful. Has this been looked at in East Devon? John said that field boundaries will be looked at.  

Louise said that the use of enforcement powers needs to be considered carefully because it can be much more beneficial to work with and alongside land owners through negotiation before resorting to enforcement.  

3. Nature Based Solutions to protect critical infrastructure

Laurence introduced a call for bids into an Horizon 2020 grant fund. Laurence asked the Group what infrastructure would be considered critical in DCIoS. Emily suggested bridges, railway and legacy landfills. Louise said energy should be included.  Donna said that some infrastructure may not be considered critical at an area-wide scale, but to a village with just one access road, that road becomes critical. 

Stephen advised of an example study from New Zealand that could help with classifying infrastructure as critical. https://www.civildefence.govt.nz/cdem-sector/lifeline-utilities/  

Paul offered the distinction between critical infrastructure and critical services. For example, there are some fire stations in Flood Zone 3 – a critical service that is vulnerable.  

4. Adaptation Strategy Consultation 

Emily advised that we have received about 130 responses so far. Most of the responses so far are from individuals rather than organisations and the majority so far are from Devon. The consultation closes on the 30th June.  

ACTION: All to continue sharing the consultation with their networks.  

ACTION: Doug to share a template response letter with Cornwall Council and Exeter City Council.  

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