«Case study, survey, diary and interview research on FCRM volunteering Report – SC120013/R3 We are the Environment Agency. We protect and improve ...»
There is a strong social capital element and building of community cohesion through the social interaction provided by the group’s regular work parties and social events.
Activities the group has involved itself in include:
• conducting a survey of flooded households
• bringing together landowners and households to discuss better land, drainage and brookside management
• working in partnership with the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board to support construction of an overflow channel
• applying for and managing a Defra grant for property level protection (PLP)
• organising two trips for local residents to UK Flood Barriers Ltd, Droitwich, to understand more about PLP
• lobbying insurance companies, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), and providing support to households’ management of insurance premiums
• organising fortnightly volunteer work groups in the summer months to clear culverts, manage bankside vegetation, clear drainage channels and so on
• raising money and other resources to support volunteer activities – this includes hand tools (for example, mattocks, buckets, high viz jackets), but also equipment such as sandbags, mobile pumps strimmers and hedgecutters 70 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering
• organising a flood protection awareness exhibition and seminar, with Environment Agency and Herefordshire Council support, for the village and people from across the county
• responding to requests from other parishes to tell them more about the benefits of a flood protection group and how to go about setting one up Who gets involved?
It is notable that the majority of BFPG members are retired (Figure 4.31). Many of the volunteers come from the part of the village most affected by the flooding, that is, the Moor. People living in other parts of the village community are not so involved.
Members of the BFPG contribute skills and resources in different ways. Some have some technical expertise which has been used to assess flood risk, and to design and construct mitigation measures. Other members are supportive through the donation of funds or, for example, by providing tea and coffee at the group’s social and fund-raising events.
There has also been considerable support from some other members of the community who are not part of the group, but have specific skills and resources they are able to donate. For example, a local resident, who is the director of a hydrological firm, arranged for the donation to the village of an early warning telemetry system which monitors the water level in the brook and sends automatic alerts to BFPG members when this rises significantly.
It is also important to note the involvement of business in this case study. UK Flood Barriers Ltd provided the property level protection, but were also happy to engage with BFPG by hosting visits to its offices and development facility, explaining available solutions, and providing them with support during and after PLP installation.
Figure 4.31 Members of BFPG with secretary and honorary treasurer, Babs Mitcheson, in the foreground Source: BFPG web pages (http://www.
bodenhamparish.org.uk) Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Decision making The immediate action following the 2007 flood was taken before the formation of the BFPG. This was by local residents who gave the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board permission to construct a diversion channel across their land to take excess water during periods of heavy rain. The BFPG then conducted an assessment of flood risk factors and potential mitigation measures in 2009, which was followed by the county council assessment in 2010 which also presented a list of remedial actions.
Both these studies identified as the prime concern the need to replace the badly designed and inadequately sized twin culverts taking the brook under the C1121/ Ketch Lane junction. Decisions about what the group should do to mitigate further flood risk were based on these plans with the long-term focus on securing the replacement of these culverts.
Decision making within the group is based on deliberative discussion and agreement seeking among members, based on the knowledge and proposals brought to them in the most part by the ‘founders’ of the group.
Fund-raising plays an important part in the decision making and implementation of actions. BFPG have also sought funds from the county council through the parish council to reinstate the role of ‘lengthsman’ to a value of £3,000 for three years. This role involves maintaining roadside ditches and drains, while the BFPG concentrates on the main watercourses. The BFPG has also helped to fund a group member through the training courses necessary to qualify him in the use of herbicides as part of the maintenance work it undertakes.
The group continues to evolve and has moved from community flood planning to discussing the development of a parish emergency plan. Some members take an active role in the neighbourhood planning group. Members also sit on local forums connected with flood risk management such as the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board and have been invited to attend Defra meetings.
The BFPG currently organises its members into area representatives (flood wardens) by street, so that the entire community is covered by an active contact who knows what to do in the case of emergency.
Relationship between the Environment Agency and BFPG The relationship with the Environment Agency has grown over the years and changed in form and scope. The Environment Agency office in Tewkesbury was not fully involved until 2011. This is due to the previous management structure which placed Bodenham in a region managed through the Environment Agency based in Cardiff at the Welsh Assembly Government.
The current relationship with Environment Agency staff began in 2010 to 2011 through the Defra flood resilience grants for ‘active measures’ in communities. These grants were aimed at communities that could provide active support around the provision and use of PLP. The grant was not only provided for the purchase and installation of PLP, but for the group to commit to helping vulnerable households raise their flood barriers, ensure PLP was properly looked after and maintained and so on.
Environment Agency community engagement staff were instrumental in helping to work up the proposal for Defra. These Environment Agency community engagement posts were themselves funded by an initiative called Floodwise, which sought to change the role of the Environment Agency within communities towards providing support to build community resilience. The Environment Agency staff member took on liaison with Bodenham as part of this work.
72 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering Success with the Defra proposal saw funding of £144,500 supplemented with an additional £16,000 from the Environment Agency to include more homes in the PLP installation. It was through this work that the relationship with the Environment Agency was built.
After the PLP project was completed, continued work with the BFPG has involved working together to develop the community level flood plan, and holding flood awareness groups in the wider area.
The most important ingredients contributing to the successful relationship between
BFPG and Environment Agency have been:
• proactive involvement by the Environment Agency facilitated by their prioritisation of engagement concentrating on working with a smaller number of communities in greater depth to ensure the communities are supported to take on tasks themselves
• BFPG understanding how best to work with the Environment Agency and the limits of their responsibilities and capacities; key here was understanding by the BFPG that the Environment Agency no longer has the same level of government funding to perform maintenance work as previously and that some actions can be taken on by the community themselves
• the monitoring and intelligence function of BFPG in letting Environment Agency know about potential flood risk problems such as debris in watercourses and trees in the River Lugg
• the community’s knowledge and expertise of the local circumstances and flood risk management dynamics which were shared with the Environment Agency in finding solutions Despite the generally good relationship with the Environment Agency, the BFPG acknowledged some frustrations. For example, it was felt that although it had an excellent working relationship with the community engagement officer in Tewkesbury, working with other parts of the organisation is not easy and finding ways of working present particular challenges. There is also a general sense of frustration about the lack of capacity within the Environment Agency to get more things done in the local area. In addition, there was a perception that some of those involved in decision making at county council level (formerly Amey Highways and Structures, now Balfour Beatty) seemed unwilling to listen and accept local knowledge with regard to local flooding issues and perhaps had little real knowledge and expertise around the technical aspects of flooding in a way that makes a really substantive contribution to managing local issues.
Motivations and benefits
The main community motivations that led to the establishment of BFPG were:
• a desire to mitigate flooding risk to protect lives and property
• a sense of frustration that nobody else would do it unless they themselves did
• a building sense of community to effect collective action of mutual benefit ‘Because we’ve all been affected by it one way or another, by the flood water, directly or indirectly, I mean. The roads around here … were flooded so we had to walk virtually all the way from the pub up to our knees in water Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering just to get home. So we may not have been affected directly in our homes, but indirectly we all suffer’.
Volunteering continues through BFPG motivated by a continuing fear of flooding, as the
‘There’s always the risk of flooding. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next’.
‘We do it because of the fear of it happening again … Everything clogging up again, getting flooded, and eventually we won’t get insured’.
‘The point is the Environment Agency and their attitudes to the river, and it clogging up … there have been five trees at one stage clogging up the river and they didn’t want to do anything about it. If they’re not prepared to do anything about the river, then what’s the likelihood of them looking after the infrastructure … that’s why we are looking after the tributaries’.
‘It’s self preservation’.
But the perceived benefits are not only linked to property protection or environmental protection, they are also linked to human well-being and social capital. For many BFPG
members taking part in work parties:
‘We treat it to a degree socially … there are lots of times after we have done the jobs, the work we want to do when we stop for a few drinks and nibbles and such afterwards … its social … it’s not all work’.
Challenges The main challenges identified by the group related to the sustainability of the volunteer base. The majority of the volunteers are elderly and there is less of an engagement with younger members of the community because of the latter’s work commitments.
Group members are aware of the group’s demography and the need to recruit new members. There is a sense that some parts of the Bodenham village community do not contribute fully to the work of the BFPG, even though they benefit from PLP or the improvements to flood risk brought about by the group’s work.
The key role of the initial founders of the group who continue to show leadership in FCRM issues was also noted as crucial to group running. Loss of these community leaders would have a significant impact on the BFPG.
Other than that, the group felt strongly that they were so well established, and gained so many social benefits from membership and community action, that the challenges ahead were relatively minor and concerned more with volunteer recruitment, funding and continued working with key stakeholders.
The future The BFPG believes it will continue regardless of the challenges because it has become an important institution within the village. Key lessons for continuing to build productive partnership relationships with the Environment Agency and other agencies centre on partners listening to the community’s local knowledge of FCRM issues, and the Environment Agency continuing to work through a single point of contact so that the community knows who to turn to when advice and support is required.
74 Case study and survey research on FCRM volunteering 4.8.5 Summary The detailed information from the case studies corroborates data from the survey and diary interviews on the motivations and benefits of FCRM volunteering. It also highlights that there is a dynamic multi-way flow of information between organisations, authorities and volunteers that helps to increase the knowledge of all of these groups about flood risk and how to cope with it. Decisions are being made at a local level within a local context that is relevant to the different areas, local opportunities and the flood risks each case study faces.
The reason for volunteers getting involved was primarily a flood event that acted as a catalyst to galvanise people into action. The Pitt Review after the 2007 flooding and the community resilience focus have forced the Environment Agency and emergency flood responders to work more closely with communities and to encourage people to get involved in volunteering.
The main element in the success for the Bodenham and local flood groups in Cornwall is the leadership shown by a small number of local community members to get groups off the ground and take action. For CCFF, taking a multi-agency approach and forging effective relationships between key organisations and community groups is vital. In Lincolnshire, motivated individuals have stepped forward – often after a flood event – and have been successfully supported by the Environment Agency in partnership with others. In Sheffield, the River Stewardship Company is drawing on a range of funding to deliver its work through a mix of long-term and casual volunteers.