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Kent County Council Refuse to Clean Reported Full Drains

Blocked drainOver the last couple of weeks, I've reported some full drains in the area (as i have for years) and a neighbour has done so as well, with the drains involved being in Granville Road East, Hillside / Wilberforce Road and Wilberforce Road / Sandgate High Street. All are "full" so that water can't get into them, stopping them being any use whatsoever as a drain.

My neighbour had had a response back from Kent County Council just before the weekend basically refusing to clean them now, and I had mine today. The business part of my response read:

"Re:652079 Report of blocked drains on Granville Road East

"Thank you for your enquiry dated 26th August 2022

"We have adopted a new risk-based proactive approach to maintaining over 250,000 highway drains across the county and we now aim to cleanse all highway drains on a countywide programme every 2 years.

"Our approach considers many factors attaining to various risks across the highway network such as road hierarchy, speed limit or whether it is a known flood zone. These factors combined will produce individual risk weightings for every asset which in turn will influence the frequency in which drains are cleaned, these frequencies being 6 monthly, yearly or every 2 years.

"Granville Road East will be attended as part of the countywide programme detailed above and doesn't meet our service level agreement for additional cleansing at this time.

"In the meantime, if you are concerned that flooding might present a risk to highway safety or cause internal property flooding, please do not hesitate to contact us on 03000 41 81 81."

So, even if you report a problem, and that propblem could cause damage to your property, Kent County Council will refuse to do anything about it until the next scheduled clean. That's clearly ridiculous, and wildy counterproductive: the POINT of reporting a full drain is that without cleaning it it could present a risk to Highway safety or cause property flooding.

I have therefore replied, and asked that their new policy is reviewed, immediately. My response to the "Drainage Asset Technician" who sent me the email:

"I thank you for your letter, and note the contents. I had had a similar letter reported to me by a local resident who had reported blocked drains in Wilberforce Road and Sandgate High Street as well, and was similarly shocked by the contents and tone.

"'We have adopted a new risk-based proactive approach to maintaining over 250,000 highway drains across the county and we now aim to cleanse all highway drains on a countywide programme every 2 years.

"'Our approach considers many factors attaining to various risks across the highway network such as road hierarchy, speed limit or whether it is a known flood zone. These factors combined will produce individual risk weightings for every asset which in turn will influence the frequency in which drains are cleaned, these frequencies being 6 monthly, yearly or every 2 years.

"'Granville Road East will be attended as part of the countywide programme detailed above and doesn't meet our service level agreement for additional cleansing at this time.

"'In the meantime, if you are concerned that flooding might present a risk to highway safety or cause internal property flooding, please do not hesitate to contact us on 03000 41 81 81.'

"Whilst I am delighted that after many years of only cleaning on demand there is now some cyclical cleaning of all street drains, a response when having a full drain reported to you that "it will be done when we get round to it" is simply unacceptable. The REASON it is being reported is that it is full, thus incapable of the purpose for which is was designed, and increases the flood risk in the area.

"Your failure to clean the drain on receiving such a report therefore is opening the County Council up to an accusation of negligence. In the case of a flood in which those drains that had been reported, and on which you have failed to act, are a contributory part, I would expect that an resident whose property is damaged due to that lack of action to have an enhanced chance of a successful claim against the local authority. That's in the same way that damage caused to a vehicle by a pothole that has reported but unrepaired (in a reasonable period of time) increases the chances of a successful claim for the cost of the repair by the vehicle owner to the council.

"So, I'm confirming that in my view, backed out by the evidence of the flooding in and near those areas in the recent torrential rain in Sandgate, in all three cases (Granville Road East, Hillside / Wilberforce Road, and Wilberforce Road / Sandgate High Street) that not only are those drains full an inoperative, they increase the risk of flooding and damage to neighbouring property. If they are not cleaned in a reason period of time from the original report in each case, then I would, in the case of flooding exacerbated by that lack of action, have to advise any residents concerned that they would have a reasonable claim for any damage to their property caused by that flooding. I'm pretty confident that is neither the intended or desired outcome of your revised policy. I'm hopeful that, at the least, in the case of a report of blocked drain being made it would be reported to the Highways Steward for evaluation and their decision on required actions, rather than leaving the area unsafe by design.

"I have copied this response to my local Highways Steward, Highways Manager at Folkestone and Hythe District Council, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group at Kent County Council and of course the Cabinet Member for Highways at Kent County Council. I would ask that the policy, and the stock response you are sending to reports that have been made, are reviewed at the earliest possible opportunity. Whilst that is being considered, please can those drains be cleaned so that they are broadly fit for the purpose for which they are designed."

I'm looking forward to hearing back from them on this, soon. Hoewrver I'm pretty shocked County Councillors have allowed this policy to be implemented without regard for what happens when blocked drains are reported by local residents.

**Update: I've had a call from the officer concerned, who had in the meantime spoken to the local Highways Steward.

They took on board my points, and all the above mentioned drains will now be inspected with urgency and cleaning jobs raised. Similarly every drain on Military Road has now been programmed for cleaning at some stage in the next 4 weeks, which alonside gulley clearing works already undertaken by F&HDC and a conversation we need to have with the developer that owns the land on which the roadside gulley olong the top of Military Road runs, should hopefully reduce the amount of water that flows down the road there, for a while...

They will also be taking back my feedback on the policy and the way it was being presented to the next team meeting, as they hadn't appreciated quite how dismissive it sounded from the recipients point of view.

I was able to correct the suggestion that cleaning every drain on a regualr rota system was brand new: it was a system in place when (years ago) Iwas a County Councillor: it was then "reinvented" into being a reactive system, and I imagine it'll be reinvented back into being reactive at some stage in the future. Where's the point in having a strategy if you don't repeatedly fail to deliver it and change it?

I also now have the direct line contact number of the draiange technician for the area, and am urged to call any time we have an issue in future. I think the email had the desired impact...**