Championing a bottom-up approach to community resilience

On 17 November 2010, mid-Cornwall experienced severe, widespread flooding. More than 300 households and businesses were affected from 15 communities.

Following the floods, Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency established two Flood Recovery Groups which met monthly to oversee the recovery stage and involve the communities in this process. These groups fed back to a strategic Steering Group represented by Cornwall Council, the Environment Agency and South West Water. Community flood groups were established and significant improvements were made to flood infrastructure, with eligible properties receiving individual property protection funding. Rather than dissolving these Flood Recovery groups at the end of this process, the knowledge, skills and experience were channelled into supporting other communities in Cornwall and maintaining an ongoing focus on flood risk.

In October 2011, Cornwall Community Flood Forum (CCFF) was established to work as a bridge between communities, individuals and businesses in Cornwall who are vulnerable to flooding, and the lead Local Flood Authority and Risk Management Authorities operating in Cornwall.

Shortly after becoming established, CCFF was asked by Cornwall Council to be their delivery partner in a Government funded Community Flood Resilience Pathfinder Project, which enabled us to develop a suite of resources to take out into the community. The success of this led to CCFF supporting Groundwork South in the pilot phase of Communities Prepared, which ran from 2016 to 2018, supporting 300 volunteers from over 30 communities in South West England.

During its brief history, CCFF has demonstrated that there are many communities out there at risk of flooding that want and need ‘help to help themselves’. They seek advice and encouragement on everything from how to create an emergency plan, to how to recruit, train and support volunteers. The Cornish coastal village of Portreath embodies this pro-active approach to community action. The Parish Council and volunteers were supported through the pilot phase of Communities Prepared to grow their community flood warden group and develop and test their flood action plan. Following a live exercise in December 2017, just weeks later Storm Eleanor hit. Although the sea wall was damaged, the community was prepared. Residents were evacuated and the emergency services and local volunteers worked in harmony to ensure everyone was safe and damage kept to a minimum – with the volunteers receiving praise for their efforts.

By Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Councillor and Chairman of Cornwall Community Flood Forum

About Cornwall Community Flood Forum

Cornwall Community Flood Forum is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), establishing Community flood groups committed to supporting those at risk of flooding to become better prepared, raising flood awareness within Cornwall and promoting a partnership approach to flood risk management and community engagement.

It works to:

  • Support communities in becoming better prepared
  • Raise flood awareness within Cornwall
  • Promote partnership approach to flood risk management and community engagement

Born and raised in Cornwall, Martyn served with the Royal Air Force from 1985 to 2004 before spending 10 years working in the Cornish voluntary sector. He then took up a temporary contract managing Cornwall Council’s Flood Resilience Pathfinder Project, continuing to work part-time for CCFF upon completion of the project in 2015. In May 2017 he was elected as a Cornwall Councillor, leaving his CCFF employment to become a Cornwall Council nominated CCFF trustee. He was elected as CCFF Chairman in March 2019.

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