Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
19.1 The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services introduced the report. The report provides an update on the strategy set out in 2017 to improve highways drainage. It is a significant area of expenditure which uses £3.2million per annum of capital and revenue funding. The main elements of the strategy are:
· identifying, prioritising and resolving drainage issues, including dealing with known flooding hot spots;
· improving our drainage asset knowledge through investigation and encapsulation of historic records and knowledge; and
· working with partners and local communities to understand and proactively manage drainage together.
19.2 The report sets out how the work to improve highway drainage has been tackled. The Asset Management Team has been learning as work has progressed and invested in new techniques and technology. The strategy and approach is working quite well and has included work in the following areas:
· The approach to blocked gullies and drain outlets has been changed by using more powerful jetting equipment and camera surveying blockages at same time.
· Of the 157 flooding hotspots originally identified, 97% will be resolved by end of this year.
· The fence to fence design approach is now working very well for carriageway investigations and designs.
· A lot of time and energy has been dedicated to improving the ditch and grip network. This is an area of maintenance that has not received as much attention as it may have needed in the past. This has now been corrected with programmes of ditch reconstruction and the reforming of grips (the channels that run between the edge of the road and the ditch).
· Work to improve the knowledge and understanding of the drainage network has included digitising all paper based records to help investigations and design. The Asset Team is capturing new information on drainage network through the survey work involved in investigations of flooding hot spots and blocked outlets. The Team is following a best practice approach to information gathering focussing on problem areas. Due to the time and cost that it would take to get a complete understanding of the drainage network, it will take some time to achieve this.
· The Asset Team is engaging with Borough, District and Parish councils to work on drainage issues such as highway flooding, road sweeping and improving knowledge.
19.3 The Committee noted the scale of improvements outlined in the report and commented on the excellent ditching work that had taken place. In discussion, the Committee outlined that it is sometimes difficult to know where the boundary is between the work of East Sussex Highways and the Asset Management Team, especially in situations where drainage problems may need to be escalated for resolution. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services responded that for drainage issues the first point of contact should be the Highway Steward or Customer Service Manager. If Councillors are not getting the information they need, then they should raise it with either himselfor the Assistant Director, Operations. Sometimes there is a lot of history behind a particular drainage problem and it may be necessary to obtain further information from the Asset Management Team before responding.
19.4 The Committee commented that it would also be helpful to have a list, or breakdown, by Division of known flooding problems together with the work planned or completed to resolve them. This could include the results of investigations even if no immediate solution is possible. Having more information on drainage issues would enable Local Members to respond appropriately to enquiries and they can also help publicise the action that is being taken. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services agreed to investigate ways to provide this information to Local Members.
19.5 The Committee discussed the problem of leaf fall and the blocking of drains. It was clarified that the Highways Team does communicate locally with District and Borough councils to clear gullies and to identify problem areas. Leaf clearance is done through the waste collection or street cleansing contracts, which tend to concentrate on urban areas. The Contract Manager Highway Infrastructure Services outlined that generally there does not appear to be a frequent problem with leaves blocking drains, and District and Borough councils seem to be quite good at targeting them for clearance.
19.6 It was clarified that if gullies are not collecting water, the Team is made aware of them and they will be dealt with. The Council does carry out work to improve drainage where falls are incorrect and carriageways regularly flood. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport added that as most highway drains are only 150mm in diameter, it means that there is the possibility that there will be temporary flooding during extreme rainfall events. Consequently, it is important to make sure expectations of the highway drainage network are realistic.
19.7 In terms of communication, it is best for members of the public and Parish councils to contact the Council through the Highways Contact Centre, rather than going to the Highway Steward directly to avoid problems if they are not at work. Unfortunately it is not possible to keep the contact telephone numbers and email addresses for Stewards covering a given area constant when they change roles, or when new Stewards are recruited.
19.8 The Committee RESOLVED to note:
1) The good progress made on the action plan agreed by Cabinet;
2) Progress since the last Highways Drainage Service update as part of Scrutiny Review of Road Repairs; and
3) Progress on the actions arising out of recommendations from the report of the Scrutiny Review of Road Repairs in March 2019.