Following the unprecedented flooding brought about by the exceptional storm events that impacted Rhondda Cynon Taf and other areas of Wales, the Leader of RCT Council has issued the following statement in response to the publication of the NRW report.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of RCT Council, said: “I welcome the publication of this report from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in their capacity as the lead Flood Risk Management body for main rivers in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
February 2020 was the wettest February on record with three named storms hitting our communities in the space of four weeks, including Storm Dennis, which lead to areas at the top of the Cynon and Rhondda valleys recording the highest levels of rainfall anywhere in Wales and also seeing our three rivers record their highest levels in over forty years.
Quite clearly, the weather instances were exceptional, with the Met Office issuing a rare Red Warning and with the subsequent confirmation that Storm Dennis was classed as a 1 in 290 year weather event that brought devastation to many communities across our County Borough with almost 1,500 homes and businesses flooded.
In the immediate aftermath, the Council’s focus was quite rightly on providing as much support as possible to those affected by internal flooding through measures such as the Community Flood Recovery Grant – Hardship Payment. The wider flood recovery operation is still ongoing however, and all involved parties have co-operated and worked hard to respond and investigate the complex causes for the flooding.
NRW play a significant role in flood management in RCT, with 30% of the land in the County Borough under their responsibility. This extends to both main rivers and the management of upland forests, including tree clearance and harvesting processes. Communities in particularly the southern areas of the County, including Pontypridd, Treforest and Taff’s Well all suffered from flooding after the River Taff burst its banks in multiple locations, and residents and businesses in these areas will certainly require reassurances where possible around mitigating the future risk of flooding.
It should be noted that main river flood defences are designed to deal with 1 in 100 year events and it is important to acknowledge that the solution in many cases is not as simple as merely building flood walls higher. Nevertheless, it is imperative that all options are explored in light of the continuing effects of climate change; whilst simultaneously seeking to resolve the issues with insurance relating to both the residential and commercial properties affected.
It is, however, absolutely imperative that the issues around the flood warning systems are resolved and I welcome the acknowledgement that new systems and processes are needed as a priority to ensure that we do not ever see a repeat of the failures during Storm Dennis, where its clear to me that the system was overwhelmed. There was a clear risk to life during Storm Dennis and it is fortunate that there was no direct loss of life as a result of the system failure.
Similarly, residents in communities such as Pentre and in Mountain Ash will also require further reassurances following the flooding which stemmed from issues with land management processes, where clear photographic evidence showed that brash off the mountain above Pentre in particular was a significant contributing factor that impacted on the culverts in the locality, which subsequently blocked and contributed to significant flooding.
The Council will now use the content of these NRW reports to inform our own statutory reports into the flooding. We are currently working through our investigations across 28 areas of flooding and developing our Section 19 reports which will be published as soon as possible. I am absolutely clear that all the agencies involved must continue to work closely together to ensure that we address the issues identified, but also that we work to ensure that robust systems are in place should we ever face such a major incident again. I will want further talks with the Welsh Government and NRW in particular about the flood events in Pentre and Mountain Ash where this emanated off their land.
Natural Resources Wales response to February 2020 floods in Wales