West Berkshire Council Weeknotes #74
In this week's blog read about our plans for the winter weather - and how you can prepare.
It was a blustery start to the week with Storm Arwen sweeping through the district. As we enter December, it's a reminder that after a mild autumn the cold, wet and windy weather is not that far away.
Winter weather is something we are used to dealing with and we have plans in place both to help mitigate the impact of bad weather on the district, and to support residents when it happens. The work we're doing covers everything from big infrastructure projects and collaboration with other partners through to clearing blocked drains - and a lot more besides.
Many of us will recall incidents of flooding in recent times and most notably in Thatcham some years ago. We've completed a number of flood alleviation schemes since then and in doing so protected hundreds of homes from flooding. Community issues require a community response of course, and through these projects we've worked with the Environment Agency, local flood forums and town and parish councils to make a difference in communities at risk of flooding.
Residents experience first-hand the impact of flooding and those people who have homes in areas prone to flooding will know all too well the worry when water levels begin to rise. Communities have been proactive in forming groups to strengthen their resilience to flooding and are dedicated and passionate in their endeavours. We're pleased to work alongside them, offering our expertise and encouraging them in finding local solutions to flooding.
It's is not just flooding that the British winter will throw at us but freezing conditions, snow, storms...the list goes on. As a local authority there is a lot we do ourselves to reduce the impact of adverse weather and to respond when it arrives.
Much of the work we do is preventative; at the moment our emergency planning team is busy working with services across the council to ensure they know what to do in the event of poor weather this winter. From our housing and highway teams to schools and social care we need to be - and will be - ready to act.
Other activities going on behind the scenes include meetings with flood wardens and flood forums, reviewing groundwater levels, checks of flood alleviation schemes, and inspecting the screens in place to prevent rubbish build up in our waterways. Unsurprisingly, a lot of this focuses on the Pang and Lambourn Valley, and in Thatcham and Newbury where flooding has traditionally been a problem.
When bad weather arrives we have well-rehearsed plans that kick in and support local residents and in particular those who are most vulnerable. For example, its important people can continue to travel - so we will be out gritting roads, clearing fallen trees or clearing blocked drains to minimise surface water on our roads. In West Berkshire we have very few rough sleepers but during freezing conditions we will activate our winter plan providing more access to warm showers and shelter. We will also be working hard to communicate with you about what we're doing - and sharing advice about what you can do to stay safe during the bad weather. It's always a busy time during bad weather but this winter, as always, you will find us up for the challenge.
So that's what we do - but what can you do to prepare for winter?
- Help us to look after our road network - from blocked drains to damaged road surfaces tell us if you spot a problem with the network. You can tell us quickly and easily online at ww.westberks.gov.uk/ReportAProblem.
- You can check whether you live in a flood risk area and remind yourself about what you should do to prepare for a flood.
- Sign up to receive weather alerts from the Met Office.
- If you're vulnerable inform your utility companies and sign up to their Priority Service Register - you can find out more on the OFGEM website.
- Make sure you're signed up to receive our news. You can subscribe to our residents' newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and find us on Nextdoor.
- Know who to contact in an emergency:
- Make sure you have the emergency contact details for your insurance company, your landlord, Thames Water, and your gas and power company somewhere easily accessible.
- If you need the Council you can call 01635 551111 or use our online contact form during office hours.
- For out-of-hours Council emergencies contact us on 01635 42161. You can find out more about the emergency line and what it covers on our website: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/outofhoursemergency
We're in a good place but we're not resting on our laurels and we will continue to deliver on our long-term ambitions and day-to-day activities to plan for, mitigate and respond to poor weather. Our Local Flood Risk Management Strategy will go before the Executive in February and set out our plans until 2026. As always, you will be able to watch that meeting live and on-demand on our YouTube channel.
We finish, as always, by wishing you and your families a good weekend - particularly in the run up the festive period. If you have any questions or thoughts on any of this discussion do feel free to get in touch.