Garforth has an almost impermeable substrate consisting of several layers of clay. This causes absorption problems during heavy rainfall and, compounded by seemingly unfettered add-ons to the existing infrastructure as development burgeoned after WW2, there have been multiple flooding incidents since the early 1960s. A severe event in the early 1980s resulted in several households claiming for damaged items and a petition was presented to LCC demanding more regular drain attention. This had diminished since local government reorganisation in 1974.
In early 2007 DEFRA announced a series of 15 pilot schemes in England and Wales looking at flooding issues. Garforth was one of these. There was a public meeting in May with a presentation of varying Sustained Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) methods successfully employed in different parts of the World, some of which could prove very challenging in an area with so much clay. Cameras and flow monitors were put in place just in time for the catastrophic rainfall event of 25th June 2007. Paradoxically this provided an unexpected wealth of information prompting much remedial work to sewers, drains and gullies over and above the renovation of the properties that had suffered internal flooding. Many occupants were displaced for anything up to 13 months and lost treasured or irreplaceable personal items. In some cases combined sewer surcharging led to properties also being inundated and surrounded by foul sewage.
STEERING GROUP & SETTING UP OF GFSG
There was a steering group set up with representatives from LCC and adjacent Local Authorities, DEFRA, local universities, Yorkshire Water and other stakeholders. An invitation was bravely extended to any interested members of the local community. It was this experience which led to engagement with the flood victims as a whole and a decision was taken to set up a group in 2008, initially under the umbrella of an established residents’ group but soon progressing to being an independent group with a constitution and bank account.
WORKING WITH LEEDS CITY COUNCIL
Collaborative work with LCC led to the application for a grant to pay for Property Level Protection products (PLP) for the houses that had flooded internally in 2007. An Emergency Flood Action Plan was drawn up in conjunction with the Environment Agency and Peace and Emergency Planning (LCC) and this is given an annual practice run incorporating use of the PLP products. The first full practice was run as part of Operation Watermark in 2011.