St Austell, Truro and a number of Cornish villages including Mevagissey, Lostwithiel, Charlestown and St Blazey experienced severe flooding in November 2010, which was noted as the worst flooding in decades. Whilst most of the county were safely asleep, the flash flooding hit in the middle of the night and thousands of houses were deluged in flood water, leaving many people trapped in their homes and cars. In the space of a just few hours two and a half inches of rain fell. Due to the topography of the area, small picturesque villages were swamped under 6ft of filthy water in this period of intense rainfall. It is reported that locals referred to this harrowing scene as ‘dirty rivers running through the streets.’ Scores of residents had to be rescued and the RAF, police and the fire service were all involved in the operation to evacuate people and relocate them to emergency accommodation.
The intensity of the flash flooding caused major disruption to the region’s infrastructure, main roads were paralysed, train services in and out of the county were affected by landslides, schools were shut and dozens of vehicles had to be recovered from floodwater. Amidst all the chaos generated by this intense period of rainfall no one was seriously injured.
In the aftermath of the storm it became clear that Mevagissey, Lostwithiel and St Blazey had taken the major brunt of the damage caused by the flooding, where shops and businesses were subject to ten inches of water. A 700 year old bridge which stands above the River Fowey in Lostwithiel was almost completely submerged, with water levels rising up to and above its arches.
Days later when the mopping up operation began, the full extent of the damage was revealed. These picture postcard communities had been left scarred by flood levels up to 6ft, mud and rubble brought down by landslides into the villages, train services totally disrupted and the lives of the local community wrecked.
The Cornwall Council PLP scheme is the biggest that has ever been undertaken. This complex project involved 157 properties, with a bespoke flood mitigation solution delivered to each. The buildings in this area are quirky and non-uniform due to the construction methods used in these Cornish villages. The complexity of these rural dwellings and the uncharted service entry points created a lot of unknowns to the fabric of buildings and their drainage networks.
There were certain requirements set by Cornwall Council that UK Flood Barriers had to adhere to. As the Council had identified that this was an area in which rapid onset flooding was most likely to occur, the EA who funded this scheme specified that where possible passive flood mitigation measures should be fitted to properties. The majority of properties required a flood proof door, with some properties needing up to five fitted. The Council also specified that UK Flood Barriers engage with a local contractor to undertake as much of the works as possible in order to help boost the local economy. This meant that our project management skills were put to the test.
In consideration of all the variables that had to be managed and the geographic spread of the properties located across a wide area of Cornwall, this project represented a real challenge.