Central Bedfordshire Council news and press releases

Council calls for action on flooding in Central Bedfordshire

Monday, 5 February 2024

Following the recent impact of Storm Henk, Central Bedfordshire Council has called for more to be done to tackle an increase in local flooding and other extreme weather events.

A meeting of Full Council last week debated the local response to recent flooding, which can have a huge impact on local communities. Thanks to the work of partners, including property owners, local volunteers, water companies, and the Environment Agency, only a small number of properties were flooded internally in Storm Henk, approximately 20 properties were reported to have been flooded internally from Storm Henk, with many more properties affected in some way by external flooding, flooding to the roads and of local infrastructure including water company pumping stations.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Adam Zerny, who visited many of the affected areas in the aftermath of the flooding to see for himself the extent of the damage, has called for a meeting with all local partners to establish what more can be done to protect communities in Central Bedfordshire. This will include local water companies, the Bedfordshire Internal Drainage Board, town and parish councils, and emergency services.

The Council’s flooding lead, Councillor Simon Ford, confirmed that we will also use our place on the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, led by the Environment Agency, to lobby for more action and resources, and influence local policy.

To add vital local knowledge to future incidents, Councillor Ford called for each town and parish to set up Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). These are groups of individuals who assist their communities during emergencies and provide valuable support to the official emergency responders. With their local knowledge, CERTs are best positioned to know who needs help, what parts of the community are most affected, and what resources are available within the community itself.

There are already 31 CERT groups across Central Bedfordshire, but with 79 town and parish councils covering the area, there could be more. They are supported by our emergency planning team to get set up and support their local communities in dealing with emergencies including flooding. Find out more about CERTs.

Councillor Ford, who attended many incidents in his capacity as a fire fighter and is our Executive Member for Highways, said:

These events are becoming the norm. We have had 10 named storms on the last five months. We need to do as much as we can, working with local partners, to make every penny count as we support local residents and businesses to minimise the problems caused by floods and other extreme weather events.

As we move from our response to Storm Henk to recovery, I want to thank officers of the council, along with local partners – especially the voluntary groups coordinated by the Bedfordshire Local Emergency Volunteers Executive Committee (BLEVEC). They worked tirelessly over several days, supporting our communities to deal with the immediate impact of local flooding, clearing highways, drains and ditches, and helping people to protect their homes.

Where there is not already a CERT in your area, I encourage anyone – especially our town and parish councils – to contact our emergency planning team to find out more about the important work they do, and how they can go about setting one up.

Councillor Adam Zerny, Leader of the Council, added:

Wherever I went, residents told me of the damage to their properties and the great upheaval it had caused to their lives. In many cases there was praise for the emergency services, for the fire service, police, and for the council’s own emergency responders.

I have written to every town and parish council in Central Bedfordshire asking them to provide a list of where the worst flood damage was, where and when the same scenes had taken place in recent years, what complaints had since been raised and with whom, and what had been done. That will help us and our partners to identify what more we can do.

In response to the national impact of Storm Henk, the government has launched a grant scheme to help those affected inside their property by the flooding. This is available through local authorities for areas where more than 50 residential properties have been flooded internally. Currently Central Bedfordshire is not eligible.