Request explanation of publication of false 2003 flood outline data for Bisham and proposals to correct

Mike Post made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Environment Agency

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Environment Agency,

On 21 May 2014 Michael Piotrowski, FCRM Officer, Partnership and Strategic Overview Projects Team at the Environment Agency made a public slide presentation to Bisham Parish Council entitled Bisham Parish, Bisham Flood Risk Winter Flooding 2012/13/14. This presentation included on page 10 a map which purported to show the 2003 Bisham Flood Event Outline. At my request Mr Piotrowski sent me the presentation on 2 June.

Unfortunately the 2003 Flood Event Outline on slide 10 is grossly in error. Properties which were well above the flood level and which did not flood are wrongly included in the Outline. Properties which did flood are excluded. My own house, Meadow House, Stoney Ware is wrongly included in the Outline. Neither the house nor the garden flooded in 2003 or 2014 nor at any time during my ownership since 1992.

This is a particularly disappointing outcome because, following the 2003 event I provided the Environment Agency with a comprehensive CD of photographs of the Bisham floods

The publication of such false historical data on flooding is damaging to owners of property that did not flood in 2003 and may affect property valuations, insurance premiums and saleability. It also damages the Environment Agency’s reputation for expertise. A recent sale in Bisham collapsed when the overbidder discovered that the house he was buying had flooded in 2003. The eventual purchaser bought the house in the knowledge that it had flooded in 2003 for over £100,000 less than the original price. The house flooded again in 2014.

I estimate that at least 10 immediately neighbouring properties in Bisham, including an old peoples’ home, are wrongly categorised either in or out of the flood outline. Since it is unlikely that it is not only the 2003 Flood Event Outline map for Bisham that is incorrect, can you please confirm what steps the Environment Agency is taking to confirm that its outline mapping records of past flood events throughout the country are accurate?

Since the data held on flooded properties in Bisham in both 2003 and 2014 are inaccurate and contaminated, how is it possible to conduct any sort of cost-benefit analysis on any scheme to mitigate property flooding?

Owing to Mr Piotrowski’s absence on holiday, I was unable to speak to him about the problem but Susan in the same office was extremely helpful.

Can you please advise me why the false data have been published for Bisham and what steps the Environment Agency is taking to correct the 2003 Flood Event map?

I look forward with anticipation to the response.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Post

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

5 Atodiad

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Gadawodd Owen Boswarva anodiad ()

Interesting. I've worked with the EA's historical flood outlines in the past. In my view they are useful and generally robust -- but only if you understand the limitations.

Given that most flood events are transient it is very difficult to map the extents of flooding accurately to the level of individual properties. Generally the historical outlines are only indicative.

I don't have any knowledge of the Bisham area specifically. However on the broader question of cost-benefit analyses for flood mitigation it's important to remember the EA relies mainly on detailed modelling of long-term flood risk from multiple sources, not simply on the extents of recent flood events.

Enquiries, Unit, Environment Agency

5 Atodiad

Hello Mr Post,

 

Thank you for your enquiry regarding data used for flood outline
information for the location provided.

 

 

I have passed your enquiry to your local customer team and they will be in
touch with you shortly. The Freedom of Information Act and Environmental
Information Regulations state that a public authority must respond to
requests for information within 20 working days, but we aim to respond to
all enquiries as quickly as we can.

 

However, at this time, many of our areas are still receiving a high volume
of enquiries due to ongoing flood recovery work which may affect our
response time.

 

You can find more information about our service commitment by clicking on
the link below:

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicatio...

 

Should you wish to contact the customer team directly, please use the
contact details below. Please quote your Enquiry Reference 140609/PC12 in
any correspondence with us regarding this matter.

 

Customers and Engagement

Environment Planning & Engagement

Environment Agency

Thames West Area

Redkite House

Howbery Park

WALLINGFORD

OX10 8BD

 

Tel: 03708 506506

 

Kind regards

 

Paul Carnall

Customer Service Advisor

National Customer Contact Centre - Part of National Operations Services

 

( Tel: 03708 506 506

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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

WT Enquiries, Environment Agency

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Post

 

WT16240: Request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(FOIA) / Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)

 

Thank you for your enquiry which was received on the 6 June regarding the
2003 historic flood outlines in Bisham.

 

Members of our Flood Risk Mapping Team (Partnership and Strategic Overview
team) attended the Bisham Parish Council meeting on 21 May 2014, to give
an overview of the winter 2014 flooding and discuss a way forward to
mitigate risk in the area.

 

Slide 10 of our presentation showed a comparison of the winter 2014 draft
flood outlines (referred to as LIDAR outlines as this was the method used
to capture the data during the flooding ) with the 2003 historic flood
outline. The aim of the slide was to show that in Bisham, the 2003 flood
outline was more extensive than the winter 2014 outline.

 

The 2014 LIDAR outline is indicative and used to compare with the 2003
historic outline which was digitised from aerial photography. Digitisation
can be difficult to interpret especially with shadows obscuring the actual
flood outline, as was the case at the time the photograph was taken at
this location.

 

The historic outline is used as a precautionary approach, primarily for
development planning purposes. Since December 2013, our Risk of Flooding
from Rivers and the Sea map has been the primary source of information
when communicating flood risk, as published on our website for your
location following the link below.

 

[1]http://watermaps.environment-agency.gov....

 

This map shows your property as being at low risk from flooding.

 

We have reviewed the 2003 aerial photographs again and can acknowledge
that you have a valid point in stating that your property did not flood
during the 2003 flood event as indicated on the historic map. 

 

We will update the 2003 historic flood map by the end of September 2014
and this will be reflected in the published flood map for planning
purposes by the end of November 2014. 

 

I am sorry about the error in the digitisation process and we will be
updating the maps to reflect the revised information.

 

I hope that we have correctly interpreted your request.  Please see the
attached Standard Notice for details of permitted use.

 

We respond to requests for recorded information that we hold under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the associated Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).

 

If you are not satisfied with our response to your request for information
you can contact us within 2 calendar months to ask for our decision to be
reviewed. 

 

We would be really grateful if you could spare five minutes to help us
improve our service. Please click on the link below and fill in our survey
– we use every piece of feedback we receive:
[2]http://feedback1.environmentagency.uk.co...

 

Yours sincerely

 

Natalie Hyde

Customers and Engagement Officer

Direct Dial: 01491 828312

 

Customers and Engagement Team

Environment Planning and Engagement

Environment Agency, West Thames Area

Red Kite House, Howbery Park, Wallingford

OX10 8BD

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Dear WT Enquiries,

Thank you for the response. I will reply more fully when I am back home in mid July.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Post

WT Enquiries, Environment Agency

Thank you for your enquiry which is being dealt with by the Customers and
Engagement Team in our West Thames Area Office.  

 

 

The Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations
state that a public authority must respond to requests for information
within 20 working days and we will try our very best to meet this
commitment.

 

For further information on what you can expect from us and our full
service commitment to you then please visit our website: 

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Gadawodd David Woolley anodiad ()

The Environment Agency seem to have gone significantly beyond what is required under the FoIA.

Unless they had already held an internal inqury, they could have responded "no information held".

Gadawodd Mike Post anodiad ()

David Woolley

It would not be true that the EA does not hold the information.

Are you suggesting that the EA should not be truthful?

Kind regards

Mike Post

Gadawodd David Woolley anodiad ()

At the time of your request, I would not expect them to have a document analysing why their prediction was inaccurate. That was what you were requesting.

They may have a duty of care to provide the best predictions that are reasonably possible, but for FoI requests they only have to be truthful about records they hold at the time of the request.

FoI requests are not places for challenging failures in duty of care. They are purely for obtaining information that is already recorded.

They could have said:

We have not analysed why the prediction was wrong for this location, therefore we do not hold the requested information.

We have not created any plans to update the risk assessment for this location, therefore we do not hold the requested information.

Assuming the above statement were true, they would have met their FoI obligations.

Instead they provided some information on why the discrepancy occured and, if I remember correctly, offered to make adjustments.

If you look at the help for people making requests, on this web site, you will see:

" Please put in your request only what is needed so that someone can easily identify what information you are asking for. Please do not include any of the following:

arguments about your cause
statements that could defame or insult others
questions or requests for comment rather than for specific information"

I would say that the suggestion that the information was false was covered by the second item, and your requests were covered by the third item.

Also see http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourR... which is in a document referred to from the help and explains that information must already be on record.

Gadawodd Mike Post anodiad ()

Dear David

You are wrong.It is the historical flooding information that the EA has published that is incorrect.

Kind regards

Mike Post

Gadawodd David Woolley anodiad ()

It doesn't change the basic principle that you can only ask for information on record. If the historical information on record is wrong you can't ask them to explain why it is wrong under FoI. The information they hold is that incorrect information. (You could also ask for the source information they used to generate it and for any documents they may have written on the process of getting from one to the other, assuming they have these.)

My feeling is that the correct process to have followed here is that described in https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...