Independent review into devastating July floods begins

The experts are due to deliver their findings in the first half of this year
By Victoria Munro

Flooding in Brooke Road, Walthamstow (Credit: Twitter/@TheOneException)
Flooding in Brooke Road, Walthamstow (Credit: Twitter/@TheOneException)

An independent review into the flash flooding that devastated Waltham Forest and other parts of London last summer has finally begun.

The London Flood Review, commissioned by Thames Water but conducted by independent experts, launched on 21st December and is expected to deliver its findings in the first half of this year.

The review will examine how “drainage systems performed”, what should be done about future flood risks and how to improve “collaborative working between all parties responsible”.

Both Thames Water and Waltham Forest Council faced staunch criticism after the July floods, with residents insisting blocked gullies contributed to the torrents that flooded their homes, reaching knee-height in some streets. 

Leader Grace Williams previously said the council was waiting on the results of a “proper review” before it committed to more drain cleaning.

Plants growing out of a blocked street drain on Milton Road

The expert group will be chaired by “water strategist” Mike Woolgar, a director of engineering firm WSP UK with more than three decades experience in the water supply industry.

He said: “The extreme flooding London experienced this past summer is likely indicative of events we may see more of under climate change. Flooding like this is frightening for those affected and the mess, losses and damages for so many people underlines just how important this review is. 

“I look forward to bringing my experience and that of my fellow members to establish how and why the flooding occurred so we can help ensure the capital’s drainage systems are as resilient as possible in the face of our changing weather patterns.”

Other members involved in the review include flood modelling expert Professor Roger Falconer and Danish city resilience expert Lykke Leonardsen. 

Representatives from TfL, the Greater London Authority, London Councils, the Environment Agency and other bodies – including Thames Water itself – will participate as stakeholders to “shape the objectives” and “provide input, guidance and feedback”.

Thames Water’s retail director Warren Buckley said the company was keen to “welcome and support” the review as it prepares for the “new normal” created by climate change. 

He added: “Ensuring that our network can operate and minimise the risk of future flooding needs to now become the collective new focus for all organisations involved in London’s water network and drainage systems.  

“While we can’t prevent every flood from happening, we know that we can do better and we must invest in resources today in order to build greater resilience tomorrow. 

“This independent review will be at the heart of driving future improvements at Thames Water, and we hope it will also prove valuable for all authorities with surface water management responsibilities.” 

Both the interim and final reports will be made available online here.