FLINTSHIRE Council’s Climate Change committee is to establish an inquiry into the county’s flood-preparedness.
Members of the committee backed a motion to set up an inquiry to find out what infrastructure is needed to guard against future problems such as those experienced in the Sandycroft, Mancot and Pentre area in recent years.
Chairing the committee, Penyffordd Cllr Alasdair Ibbotson (Lab) said that as there was no room within the council’s budget for massive infrastructure projects, the Welsh Government and UK Government would need to be told of potential issues in advance.
Hawarden Mancot Cllr Sam Swash (Lab) supported the motion, adding that just 30 minutes of heavy rainfall had led to flooding in that area recently.
But Argoed and New Brighton Cllr Mared Eastwood (Lib Dem) was sceptical about the inquiry’s proposed scope and effectiveness, asking what would happen if other stakeholders such as Welsh Water or Natural Resources Wales were not able to attend or respond in time.
She said she did not feel councillors had the required expertise or knowledge to lead an inquiry, and should instead monitor the work that is already happening and should push for council officer updates on that.
The council’s chief officer for planning Andrew Farrow, also warned that the authority did not have the resources to run the inquiry.
He said: “Obviously this is focusing on the Sandycroft incident which is still going on and that’s probably part of the lessons to be learned here. It’s a complex one which has a number of different parties involved in it.
“I’ve got to be clear with you – we do not have the resources to hold what is effectively a public inquiry into flooding incidents in Flintshire.”
“Should you wish for an update and reflections on the Sandycroft incident, I think we could do that for a future meeting of this committee.”
Mr Farrow added: “But in terms of calling for evidence, calling for members of the public, Cllr Eastwood is quite right, we could ask for evidence from Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales, and they’re not duty-bound to provide anything.
“We need to be clear, there are no resources within our team to facilitate an inquiry into this.”
Connah’s Quay Wepre Cllr Roz Mansell (Ind) said communication between various parties was a problem and knowing which one had responsibility for certain drains.
“Is it the water board, is it the council, is it private land?” she said.
This was echoed by Caergwrle Cllr Dave Healey (Lab), cabinet member for climate change, who agreed there needs to be more clarification as to who is responsible for what when it comes to flooding issues, especially if the infrastructure is “antiquated”.
Cllr Healey spoke of flooding in Caergwrle where rain water churned up sewage which spilled out into the road, people’s gardens and homes.
“In the modern age it’s unacceptable, and there needs to be some sort of funding to improve whatever is wrong with our sewer system”, he said.
The committee voted to press on with setting up the inquiry, which has been welcomed by Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami MP
The Labour MP said: “This inquiry should give residents’ voices a chance to be heard, and to put pressure on Natural Resources Wales to do the right thing, like Flintshire and Welsh Water, and finish the job.”
Cllr Ibbotson added: “This inquiry will look at what the council can do to help prepare our communities to cope with the effects of climate breakdown, which are already being felt in Flintshire, and what outside help is needed, such as Welsh Government investment in better drainage.
“Mark Tami’s backing for this has been key in seeing the inquiry happen and I know he will continue to work for local residents on this vital issue.”
Gwernaffield and Gwernymynydd Cllr David Coggins Cogan (Lib Dem) also welcomed the inquiry. He said: “It’s essential that we look seriously at the issues facing Flintshire as runaway global heating hits us locally.
“Liberal Democrats will always back measures to address this, and I am glad to have been able to join cross-party support from Labour and Independent councillors to get this inquiry started.”