NRW statement in response to Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s Section 19 Report
We do not underestimate the impact that the February 2020 storms had on communities in Rhondda Cynon Taf. The scale of the structural and human impacts of the flood waters was devastating and the grief felt in those communities palpable. Our thoughts continue to be with those whose houses were damaged, whose livelihoods were threatened and those still recovering and rebuilding today.
The rainfall experienced in February 2020 was record breaking and exceptional. Wales has not seen a wetter February since records began in 1862. It was also the fifth wettest month on record resulting in some of the most significant flooding Wales had seen since the 1970s.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) agrees with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s (RCTCBC) report’s statement that the “event that occurred on 15 and 16th February 2020 was extreme, and it is unlikely flooding from a similar event could be prevented entirely.”
NRW’s review into the February 2020 floods found that the working methods we adopted during the felling operation above Pentre were appropriate and in line with forestry standards, and that these operations were not likely to have been the primary cause of the flooding.
We accept that woody material washed off the mountains above Pentre may have contributed to blockages to the culvert system, which also included a significant amount of soil and rock. However, a proportion of the woody debris was unrelated to NRW’s felling operations and was washed down as a natural consequence of such an extreme event. NRW therefore disagrees with the report’s inference that its harvesting operations were the primary cause of the flooding during Storm Dennis.
We know that the people impacted want to understand the reasons for the flooding and what can be done to help reduce the risk in the future. We have worked in partnership with RCTCBC to repair and upgrade the culvert inlet since the storms and carry out regular checks at key locations across the Borough all year round. These increase in frequency during the winter period and ahead of any heavy rainfall event. The report identifies the limited capacity in the culvert system at Pentre and as a result, RCTCBC is undertaking a programme of investigations and upgrade works.
Our own reviews have underlined our commitment to learn lessons from the February storms and make improvements wherever possible. But there needs to be a fundamental consideration of the choices that we all have to make on how flood risks are managed and resourced on a national level in Wales. Where Pentre is concerned, we want to work constructively with RCTCBC and with other flood risk management authorities to keep under review what is practically possible to improve the situation in this community.
We have to accept that we cannot stop the rain and that some flooding is inevitable. Climate change is leading to more extreme weather events, and we are certain to see more of the types of storms we saw in 2020 in the future. That is why the lessons learnt by every flood risk management authority involved in the response to February’s events should be the catalyst for the decisive action needed to adapt to the challenges of the future.
NRW also published its own reviews into the February 2020 floods in October last year. The reports can be found here: Natural Resources Wales / February 2020 floods in Wales - our response