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Lostwithiel Flood Prevention Project 2011/2012

There is a clear need to find solutions to new challenges created by a changing climate and this is a close look at how we are achieving this.

Lostwithiel Flooding Event (November 2010)

  1. We have looked at flooding and what we in Cornwall can do to help
  2. We have turned an environmental problem into a valuable resource
  3. We know we can reduce the problem if we start acting now

fire brigade dealing with floods in lostwithielBlocked drains and leaf litter preventing efficient drain usage are common themes that arise from floods, particularly the 2007 floods in Hull. A recent survey asked two Lostwithiel residents about the 19/11/10 flooding event. Both residents felt leaf litter had a significant impact on the effects of the flood and needed to be addressed.


The Pitt Report identified a need to reduce the risks of floods, have a better understanding of each local authority’s drainage and watercourse system (ES.36) and ensured clear responsibility for the systems is held by the local authorities1.

Drain clearing, is the responsibility of the Highways Authority, but is expensive, labour intensive and not favourable to the current economic climate.

However, Climate Vision approached Cornwall Council’s Highways Authority, Devon & Cornwall Probation Service, The Environment Agency, Lostwithiel Town Council, Cornwall Waste Action and the University of Hull to bring together expertise, training and manpower to create a pilot project, to be the first to measure, remove and turn leaf fall covering drains, throughout autumn fall, into a valuable resource in this area, in a bid to help alleviate one part of a flooding problem.

Good News

Half way through the pilot project, 70 bags a week are currently being removed from problem areas and composted, to the delight of:
♦ Lostwithiel residents
♦ CC Highways Authority
♦ D&C Probation Service
♦ Exeter University – Masters Degree Programme in Climate Change & Risk Management

Background Information

Why the interest?

Part of the Climate Change & Risk Management Masters Programme asked us to investigate a local flooding area, its history, how it affected residents and what could be done about it.

Historical flooding events in Cornwall were explored using data from a digital archive of extreme rainfall from 1866-1968, kindly made available to Luci Isaacson by Harvey Rodda at Hydro-GIS (Rodda et al, 2009).

Heavy rainfall events are better understood using local catchment areas to consider what happens when there is heavy rainfall in the surrounding area.  Climate Vision attended local flood meetings in Lostwithiel to ask local residents where they thought drains were being covered in leaf litter and stop water from going down the drain.

The Probation service where approached due to a long term interest to inspire offenders by empowering them with the tools and know-how to help alleviate environmental problems that can be expensive to remedy. In meeting and talking with the victims of flooding events, undertaking the alleviation work, learning new skills, obtaining certification, the Community Payback team can help prevent one part of the many problems that lead to the terrible ordeals people experience due to flooding.

By learning about how these problems occur, through the lens of a changing climate, it is hoped the inspiration will be heightened by the knowledge that the skills learnt during their sentence, will be incredibly useful now and in the future, within their own communities. During the second week of the project people came out of their homes and thanked the CP team for their work.


Dr. Stephan Harrison, Director, MSc in Climate Change Risk Management

“Making communities resilient to climate change and extreme weather is often a case of doing small things well that have a big impact.  This is an excellent example of this and we are very pleased that a recent graduate of our MSc in Climate Change Risk Management at Exeter University has put her education to such good use”.

Cllr John Pegg, Lostwithiel Town Council:

“The leaf litter project in Lostwithiel has been very successful. The enormous amount of roadside detritus collected over this period is quite astonishing, all of which will form useful compost material for nearby allotment users to enjoy. The community at large are aware of the scheme and have seen the benefits. All the town centre drains are clear and working efficiently thus minimising the chance of flooding occurring because rainwater is able to flow efficiently underground to the watercourse.”

Geoff Richards, Unit Manager, Community Payback, Unpaid Work Unit:

“A project such as the Lostwithiel Leaf litter Project is an example of where the Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust has worked in partnership with local agencies and community representatives in an effort to improve the local environment. This project has proven both demanding and challenging work for offenders sentenced by the courts to carry out Unpaid Work. Offenders on the project have been given qualified and professional training in order to carry out the project and it has given them an insight as to what can be achieved through hard work and community spirit.”

Graeme Hicks, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet member for transportation and highways:

“This project has demonstrated the benefits that can be achieved by various organisations pulling together their expertise and skills in financially challenging times to provide an improved and safer environment for the community of Lostwithiel. Luci should be congratulated on the fine work she has done in co-ordinating and implementing this project.”

Steve Bayley, Highway Manager:

“The Leaf Litter Project headed by Luci Isaacson is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through innovation and the utilisation of alternative resources in financially challenging times.  I am delighted to see that the project has achieved demonstrable results in such a short space of time for the benefit of the local community.  Hopefully, with continuing success, this can be seen as a potential model for the future”.

Rob Menary, Chief Executive, Devon & Cornwall Probation Trust:

Working with local groups and Climate Vision in this very public project has given offenders a real opportunity to contribute something back to communities at the same time as improving their environmental awareness and employment skills. Offenders on ‘Community Payback’ in Devon and Cornwall undertake 150,000 hours of work each year and do make a major contribution to safer and cleaner neighbourhoods. Projects that improve the environment are becoming an every greater proportion of our work and this has been a fantastic opportunity to reduce the risk of flooding. Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust has also been nominated for a national wildlife and environment award in recognition of our work in these areas.


1Defra, (2007).

2Rodda, H. J. E., Little, M.A., Wood, R.G., MacDougall, N. & McSharry, P. E. (2011). “British Rainfall Digital Archive” held by Hydro-GIS Ltd.