Flash floods in London – Westminster Council investigates

The floods last night in Knightsbridge are another reminder of the adverse effects of the floods on the 12th & 25th of July and appear to have become a regular occurrence in London.

Last week’s Westminster Council Public Scrutiny meeting at Porchester Hall, W2 was an attempt to scrutinise the issues involved but raised for me more questions than answers.

After many councillors in Maida Vale and other affected wards in Westminster City Council reported the extent of the damage done to angry local residents we heard for the first time about the Council’s Section 19 interim Report; Thames Water and London Fire Service. This while we should not forget the council has responsibility for the local highway drainage, Thames Water manage the sewer network. 

As expected while Thames Water were sorry for what had happened but did not accept any liability for compensation on the matter, emphasising they independent enquiry into the whole matter. They readily conceded the response on the day of the floods was – to quote their corporate director – ‘bloody awful’ but deny liability for the damage caused. This while the councils have responsibility for the local highway drainage, Thames Water manage the sewer network. 

For example we heard about a man of 72 from Maida Vale just getting over cancer, who had lost everything in the floods won’t be get a penny in compensation. He has since the flooding become homeless and been moved around to six different hotels by the council!  What they did not tell us was who was going to part of the independent enquiry and how they will consult with residents adversely affected by the floods. It could quite easily by made up representatives of other private water utilities, and thus not likely to say anything which means the water industry needs to address. So let us watch this space for the make up the Board for the Independent Enquiry.

We heard 230 homes were flooded in Westminster altogether and it was one of the busiest day’s for the London Fire Brigade who help drain the floods down. The local borough Commander for Westminster gave us an excellent over all picture for London, but not the local one for Westminster. Something local residents should pursue clearly given the impact in Maida Vale, Little Venice and Pimlico. 

Hammersmith & Fulham council will be having a similar Public Scrutiny Meeting on the flooding in their borough soon. Here the Brackenbury Residents’ Association and LBHF among others are compiling a list of the properties affected, a similar exercise would be useful in Westminster as well.  As the exercise in H&F mirrors closely the properties affected in the last major flood in 2007. This is significant as Thames Water claim this is an exceptional (1:300 year) event that could not have been predicted or prevented. There was of course the major Counters Creek flood relief scheme cancelled as unnecessary in 2014 but many of the alternative mitigations (FLIPS and SUDS for those used to the jargon) were not particularly well completed. Whilst the Maida Vale Alleviation Scheme had been built out in W9, but to no avail on the 12th of July! 

The threat and how we deal with flooding is clearly not going to go away around London, so keep in touch on the website stoplondonfloods.com