Flood­ing will not stop un­til city can tame its 3 rivers Se­vere del­uge due to de­vel­op­ment over the years, claims ex­pert

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Gra­ham Young Staff Reporter

ALEADING aca­demic says Birm­ing­ham only has it­self to blame for this week’s dev­as­tat­ing flood be­cause of the way in which it has been de­vel­oped around its three rivers, the Rea, Cole and Tame.

And un­less wa­ter is con­tained at source on the rivers’ flood­plains, he ar­gues, the del­uges will con­tinue for years to come.

Homes were soaked with sewage and sod­den fur­ni­ture left lin­ing the streets in large parts of the city after the flood­ing on Sun­day.

Ex­treme storms caused chaos across parts of Har­borne, Selly Oak, Kings Heath and Stirch­ley and many other parts of the Mid­lands when a month’s rain fell in an hour.

Dr Chris Bradley, se­nior lec­turer in Ge­og­ra­phy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence at Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, lives near the Per­shore Road, in Selly Park, an area re­peat­edly flooded over the years.

On Sun­day he wit­nessed at first hand the dev­as­ta­tion flood wa­ter can bring.

“This was the third flood in the area in the past decade,” he said, re­fer­ring to pre­vi­ous events in 2008 and 2016. But the only pre­vi­ously doc­u­mented flood of this sever­ity was in the 1920s when peo­ple were pic­tured in a boat on Sir Johns Road.

“A num­ber of fac­tors con­trib­ute to the re­cent spate of floods in this area, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of the Selly Oak by­pass fur­ther up­stream which has in­creased the rate of wa­ter move­ment through the catch­ment down­stream.” The city is also on a plateau which can force air up­wards, a ma­jor fac­tor in the tor­nado of 2006 which tore through Mose­ley and Bal­sall Heath, he said. Fac­tor in ar­eas of clay and a high wa­ter ta­ble and lo­calised flood­ing can oc­cur in built-up ar­eas dur­ing pe­ri­ods of sus­tained heavy rain. Dr Bradley said an­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor may be re­cent de­vel­op­ments on the flood­plain which will have re­duced the po­ten­tial for flood-wa­ter stor­age. Dr Bradley said: “The mes­sage we have to get across is flood­ing down­stream, hold wa­ter at source.

“Sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes of wa­ter also pass through the sew­er­age sys­tem which has a lim­ited ca­pac­ity: at one point on Sun­day, the wa­ter was lift­ing the man­hole covers out of the road.” that you to stop have to

Dr Bradley said the cause of the most re­cent flood in the Selly Park area was sim­i­lar to the one in 2016.

“On both oc­ca­sions flood waters from the Bourn Brook over­topped the bank and flowed onto the Per­shore Road.

“It then passed along Sir Johns Road, and Fourth and Third Av­enues to­wards the River Rea,” he ex­plained.

“The chan­nel of the Bourn Brook, as it passes un­der the Per­shore Road and through the Na­ture Cen­tre, doesn’t have enough ca­pac­ity to cope.

“Con­sid­er­able vol­umes of wa­ter over­spilled onto the road go­ing to Third Av­enue and Sir Johns Road.”

Dr Bradley added: “Tech­ni­cally, my un­der­stand­ing is that the Bourn Brook is de­fined as a ‘main stem’ river for man­age­ment pur­poses.

“The sig­nif­i­cance is that the En­vi­ron­ment Agency is then re­spon­si­ble for man­age­ment rather than the coun­cil’s drainage engi­neer­ing de­part­ment.

“On Sun­day, there was some sewer flood­ing which raised the man­hole covers.

“We will have to look at the weather radar to see the spa­tial distri­bu­tion of the rain.

“But it was very lo­calised with an in­cred­i­ble con­cen­tra­tion in one hour and no rain (up­stream of the River Rea) in Long­bridge.

“The gauges in Selly Park by Dog­pool Lane and at Calthorpe Park sug­gest the river wa­ter was the high­est that has been recorded but fur­ther up­stream, in Long­bridge, the river barely re­sponded.”

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil said drainage sys­tem could not blamed for the flood­ing.

A Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil spokesman added: “All grates and street drains are checked pe­ri­od­i­cally for ob­struc­tions, with ad­di­tional checks and clean­ing un­der­taken in ar­eas deemed be at high risk of flood­ing when­ever a weather warn­ing is is­sued.

“This was an ex­treme weather event, with some parts of the city see­ing a month’s rain­fall in just one hour, and the sheer vol­ume of wa­ter en­ter­ing the drains in such a short space of time has led to flash flood­ing in cer­tain ar­eas.

“How­ever, we are sat­is­fied that there were no is­sues with drain block­ages and this is demon­strated by the fact the flood wa­ter in th­ese ar­eas drained away soon after the rain ended.” its be

To stop flood­ing down­stream, you have to hold wa­ter at source. Dr Chris Bradley

> A Team Ru­bi­con vol­un­teer from Corn­wall helps clear a house in St John’s Road, Selly Park, after the dev­as­tat­ing floods on Sun­day

> Wa­ter lifted a man­hole cover in Per­shore Road, in Selly Park, near the Bourn Brook

> Dr Chris Bradley

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