Christmas floods: Bedford Borough Council must learn from “terrible, terrible time”

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Carlton High Street (Bridgend), Christmas Floods 2020
Carlton was amongst the North Bedfordshire villages flooded over the 2020 Christmas weekend. Image: Clare Mullarky

The December 20210 flood was a terrible, terrible time, and the council needs to learn from it, a meeting heard.

At the Council’s Executive meeting last week (20 October) a summary of the findings and next steps of Flood Investigation Report – December 2020 Flood Event, were given by councillor Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur Ward) and councillor Doug McMurdo (Independent, Sharnbrook Ward).

The Council has a duty to investigate a flood event when considered appropriate and to the extent it deems necessary.

Read: Communities rally together as Bedford battles floods

The purpose of the flood investigation was to identify the reported impacts and likely causes of flooding, develop informed actions to reduce the risk of flooding in affected locations and/or increase the preparedness of communities for future flood events.

Bedford Borough experienced widespread and exceptional flooding between 23 and 26 December 2020, with reports of internal property flooding at 27 locations.

Councillor Atkins, the portfolio holder for community safety, regulatory services and housing, said, “In December we experienced exceptional rainfall, way above average, and it was the second wettest December since records began in 1981.

“In the preceding three months there had been above average rainfall, so the ground was saturated,” she added.

The councillor said that on 23 December there were 50-55mm of rain.

“The main river flooding and the surface water flooding caused tremendous impacts throughout the borough, and it was declared a major incident on Christmas Day,” she said.

Damage was caused to the highways, bridges could not be crossed and roads were impassable, she added.

The flooding was at a level not seen since the Easter flooding in 1998, following which the council added flood defences along the river, mainly in the town.

Councillor McMurdo, the portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said, “In the early hours of Boxing Day it [the defences] was tested to its absolute maximum.

“Had it gone another 20-25mm the defences may well have been breached.

“It was very emotional to see some of the impacts on the people and properties.

“It was a terrible, terrible time, and we need to learn from it and see what we can do going forward,” he said.

The report said 141 specific actions have been identified.

Due to the number and complexity of the actions, these will be prioritised reflecting the resources available and known flood risk.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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