New Flood Warning System for South Zeal
16/04/12 - Flood Warning System go-ahead for South Zeal
A new flood warning system is to be set up in South Zeal this month after the Environment Agency confirmed a capital grant of £6,000 for the project which West Devon Borough Council will be helping to implement.
This will assist South Zeal residents by providing an hour's warning of potential flooding. This gives enough time to install flood boards and pumps purchased last year, preventing water affecting 14 homes under threat in the village.
The 14 homes were flooded in 2000, after heavy rain on the 550 metre high Cosdon Hill, above the village, sent a deluge of water down the Ramsley Stream. The 70-metre culvert carrying the stream under properties and the road through the village was overwhelmed.
Planning to reduce the impact of another flooding incident has involved partnership working between the local community, West Devon Borough Council, Devon County Council, the Environment Agency, South West Water and Dartmoor National Park Authority.
West Devon Borough Council applied for grants which resulted in last year's £30,000 scheme for flood boards and pumps. The village achieved high-level exposure by joining Exercise Watermark, a nation-wide flood readiness exercise. In a trial run, the residents installed their new flood protection boards in 30 minutes, well within the hour's warning the system provides.
Peter Brotherton, South Tawton Parish Council Clerk, said: "I think we all sleep more comfortably at night since these new flood protection measures have been put in place. The striking thing is the community spirit that has been engendered. The community is obviously well aware of the all the help and assistance we have been given by West Devon Borough Council, local MPs, and other agencies who contributed to the success of this venture."
The Environment Agency grant is for the 2012 financial year, with a further contribution pledged by the Parish Council. The new flood warning system will be installed this spring.
Senior Engineer Jackie Smith, shortly to rejoin West Devon Borough Council, said: "I am delighted to hear that the funding bid has been successful. It is a pleasure to work with the community in South Zeal and I look forward to getting this project underway."
Jackie went on to say. "The system is quite simple. When the water rises to a preset level, the system is triggered and calls up to five telephone numbers to raise the alarm. Residents can nominate who receives the alert, and they cascade the message onwards."
It truly is localism in action. Colonel Tony Clark chaired a group that created an over arching strategic emergency plan for the two parishes of Sticklepath and South Tawton. Villagers formed a flood defence group and established a team of OWLs, people who live outside the flood water level, to help in an emergency. With the approval of farmers, Dartmoor Ranger Ian Brooker has diverted water running down bridleways away from the Ramsley Stream and onto fields.
Devon County County too have played their part, clearing the culvert of shillet and debris every year.
The villagers raised £4,000 to provide willow branch reinforcements to the banks of the Ramsley Stream, reducing erosion of the shillet bank when the stream is in spate. Simple shillet traps have also been constructed.
Tracy Windemer, former Engineering Manager for West Devon Borough Council and South Hams District Council, said: "It would have been very difficult to justify a major flood prevention scheme for South Zeal. This scheme has been very much about encouraging people to help themselves."
West Devon Borough Councillor Bill Cann, who lives in the village, said: "As far as the drainage part goes and the support we have had from West Devon has been first class. I welcome it because the bottom of the village gets flooded from time to time and although it still happens it has been alleviated. This scheme is going to make a great difference."
Jackie said: "The residents of South Zeal are very proactive. Peter Brotherton and Andy White, the Parish Council Chairman, have been the driving force. They are the real stars here."
Peter Brotherton added: "We dubbed Jackie the Jaffa Queen because she was always supplying the village with Jaffa Cakes and - luckily for us - raising enormous amounts of money to combat the flooding. Sometimes I think we would not have made it through without those Jaffa Cakes!
Why Jaffa Cakes? "They are the last line of defence when all else fails," says Jackie, "ideal for mopping up tricky situations".