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Storm Dennis anniversary – funding and infrastructure update

Written by on 16th February 2021

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has today welcomed a significant £4.4m Welsh Government funding to help continued efforts to rectify damage caused by Storm Dennis – and has also provided a progress update on infrastructure repairs one year on.

On Tuesday, February 16, the Welsh Government announced £21.5m funding to help Welsh Councils fix infrastructure damage due to severe weather. Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James and Finance Minister Rebecca Evans announced that Rhondda Cynon Taf has been awarded £4.4m to support the work on highways, bridges, culverts and retaining walls across the County Borough – which is still very much ongoing one year on from Storm Dennis.

Storm Dennis, which happened between February 15-17, 2020, caused record river levels and flows as Rhondda Cynon Taf saw its most significant flooding since the 1970s, with 1,476 properties internally flooded. It was one of four storms in very quick succession, which also included Storm Ciara on February 8-9, an unnamed storm February 21-24 and Storm Jorge on February 28-March 1.

The Council’s response to Storm Dennis was extensive, it supported emergency services with evacuations, set up rest centres for those residents who had to leave their homes, made emergency funding available for families, and coordinated the County Borough’s biggest-ever food appeal. Once water levels had reduced, it could assess the widespread infrastructure damage.

In total, 17 storm events were experienced in the past year, including those in February 2020. In this time, the Council’s Flood Risk Management team has:

  • Investigated 2,514 reports of flooding.
  • Inspected more than 48km of watercourse infrastructure (of which 41km was underground).
  • Removed around 2,000 tonnes of debris from these assets.
  • Developed 19 ‘Section 19 – Flood Investigation Reports’.
  • Undertaken emergency repairs to 31 ordinary watercourse assets.

The team has further delivered an accelerated capital programme targeting 34 individual schemes. Progress has ranged from business case development, detailed design and construction, with some key schemes listed below:

  • Park Lane, Trecynon – a major scheme is nearly complete to provide flood attenuation basins and reduce the risk of flooding in the area.
  • Pentre Road Inlet – significant work continues on site to install a new culvert inlet, debris basin and overflow following damage by Storm Dennis, to reduce local flood risk.
  • Pentre Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) – work continues to progress a business case for proposals to mitigate flood risk in the community.
  • Bryn Ifor, Mountain Ash – work is complete to install a new and improved culvert inlet and facilitate an overland conveyance route.
  • Rhigos Road Culvert – a damaged culvert has been repaired while a scheme to rectify two further culverts nearby is being designed.
  • Cwmbach FAS – work continues on site to create dedicated overland conveyance route, which incorporates green solutions.
  • Glenboi FAS – design continues on a scheme to provide a dedicated overland conveyance control measure.
  • Treorchy FAS – a business case is proposed to mitigate surface water and ordinary watercourse flood risk, with investigations started on site.

In terms of other infrastructure (including bridges, walls and landslips), the huge challenge of identifying damage and designing/carrying out repairs continues across the County Borough. The list below provides a summary of some of the schemes which are either completed, planned or progressing:

  • M&S bridge, Pontypridd – repairs were completed on site in the Park, and the bridge has been lifted back into place. Repairs are being finalised and the bridge is set to reopen in the coming weeks.
  • Feeder Pipe Footbridge, Abercynon – the structure has been demolished and plans are underway to replace it in 2022/23.
  • Tyn y Bryn Footbridge, Tonyrefail – emergency repairs were carried out, and site investigations and design are ongoing for its replacement.
  • Penydarren Tramroadside Bridge, Trecynon – working with Cadw, Scheduled Monument consent is applied for to undertake repairs.
  • Bailey St, Canning St and Maindy St Bridges, Ton Pentre – debris has been removed and scour repairs are complete on these bridges.
  • Merlin Bridge, Hopkinstown – scour damage was rectified on this structure using specialist contractors.
  • Blaencwm River Wall – a contractor will be appointed shortly to carry out the final repairs needed to fully open Blaen-y-Cwm Road.
  • Berw Road River Wall, Pontypridd – emergency works have been undertaken following an inspection, and full repairs are programmed.
  • Berw Road Bridge (White Bridge), Pontypridd – plans have recently been announced to carry out temporary repairs which could result in the bridge being reopened by this summer, with a full repair programme under a full closure in 2022.
  • Castle Inn River Wall, Rhydyfelin – scour repairs are now carried out and the traffic lights required for this work have recently been removed.
  • Pontypridd Road River Wall, Porth – initial repairs have been undertaken to reduce the risk of the structure collapsing.
  • Maerdy Mountain Road – investigations continue in relation to the long-term repairs required due to the water levels in Storm Dennis.
  • Ynyshir Community Route Landslip – ground investigation has been undertaken and design work is progressing.
  • Tylorstown Landslip – significant progress has been made towards a four-phase remediation plan, including removal of the majority of slip material and returning the river to its former alignment.
  • Cross Street River Wall, Ynyshir – design is progressing in order to repair and rebuild this structure.

Please be advised that this is not an exhaustive list of all the ongoing repairs underway or planned – while the way forward for other damaged structures such as the Castle Inn Bridge in Treforest continues to be assessed.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways and Transportation, said: “We have today welcomed significant £4.4m funding provided by the Welsh Government, to help with our continued efforts to rectify storm damage – particularly that sustained in Storm Dennis a year ago. We’ve been clear that the infrastructure damage would not be a quick fix and that the tens of millions of pounds worth of repairs would take place over several years, but we remain committed to making them, and pursuing external funding where possible.

“Our initial priority following Storm Dennis was ensuring people were safe and families who had to leave their homes were supported – and while that help continues, our attention turned to assessing the huge damage Storm Dennis caused. It’s also important to remember that 17 storms were experienced in the last 12 months – including Ellen and Francis in August 2020, Aiden in October 2020, Bella in December 2020 and Christoph in January 2021 – and on each occasion the Council deployed additional extra resources to support our residents.

On site, important progress has been ongoing at a number of locations including Pentre Road, Tylorstown Landslip and Ynysangharad War Memorial Park – both for the M&S Bridge and the National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty. Earlier this month, we were also able to announce our two-stage plan to repair White Bridge in Pontypridd, as initial repairs could see the structure open to traffic by the summer. We will continue to communicate the progress made with infrastructure schemes in communities right across the County Borough.

Other important progress in recent months has seen Officers bring forward 11 recommendations to ensure the Council is even better prepared for future severe weather, which is unfortunately inevitable due to climate change. Cabinet Members agreed these in December 2020 and several actions have since been progressed, including setting up a multi-agency control room to help coordinate the Council’s response with partners during severe weather.

“The Council’s Cabinet has also recently agreed a further £500,000 a year, each year, to fund additional Drainage crews to increase the rate of repairs and maintenance as part of the Draft Budget proposals for 2021/22, which will shortly be presented to Full Council.

“The Council also undertook an engagement exercise throughout January 2021, so residents and businesses affected by flooding in recent years could help Officers collate local knowledge, storm event data and historical information about flooding. We had an excellent response to this, with around 300 responses which will help inform future targeted flood alleviation work.

“I’d like to extend my thanks to the Welsh Government for this latest funding announcement, which builds on their previous allocations to support the Council in repairing and improving infrastructure damaged during Storm Dennis.”