Flooding in Tunbridge Wells
This page explains how to prepare for, and what to do in the event of flooding. It also explains the role of each agency regarding flooding and the services they provide.
Who to contact if you are experiencing flooding
The Environment Agency has a 24-hour Floodline on 0345 988 1188
Call them to report:
- a blockage, for example a fallen tree
- collapsed or badly damaged river or canal banks
- unusual changes in river flow
- flooding from a main river
Contact Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to report flooding from other rivers, brooks or streams.
Highway drains and flooded roads
If you are concerned about blocked drains or to report highway flooding, you should call Kent County Council on 03000 41 81 81
Kent County Council Highways is responsible for the removal of surface water from roads and footways to maintain safety; prevent damage to the highway and minimise the impact on the surrounding environment. Their priority is to keep road drainage systems flowing and manage the flows they are built to carry.
Sewers and burst water mains
To report flooding from the public sewer, you should call Southern Water's 24-hour customer service team on 0330 303 0368
Southern Water is responsible for ensuring that their customers can continue to use their wastewater services, such as toilets and sinks.
Southern Water have created what to do in case of internal flooding which includes key steps to guide through an internal sewer flooding.
Let them know if any nearby properties have been affected so they can be helped too.
Property owners are responsible for maintaining any private drains or sewers that serve their property.
Property and land owners (riparian owners) are responsible for maintaining any watercourse, including drainage ditches, that run through or adjacent to their land or property.
Preparing for flooding
The better prepared you are, the better you'll cope with the effects of flooding. If you live in a known flood risk area, you should adopt a self-help approach and prepare in advance, and respond to forecasts or flood warnings.
You can find out on the check flood risk page of GOV.UK if you are at risk of flooding.
The following checklist can help you to prepare:
- keep a list of useful numbers to hand, for example:
- have a few sandbags and some plastic sheeting prepared to block doorways and air bricks, or install proprietary flood defence systems
- make up a flood kit and keep it upstairs, including:
- a torch
- waterproof clothing
- a portable radio
- first aid kit
- rubber gloves
- key personal documents
- consider writing a flood plan, and store these notes with your flood kit
- talk about possible flooding with your family or those you live with
- make sure you know where to turn off your gas and electricity
- think where you will move pets to if a flood is on the way
- think where you can move your car to in the event of a flood warning
- store valuable or sentimental personal belongings upstairs or in a high place downstairs
- think about medication, you'll still need to take it with you in the event of a flood
We do not supply sandbags to residents and businesses, however we will try to assist in the response to the flooding defence of Tunbridge Wells, including making sandbags available to the highest risk locations.
Our supply of sandbags is limited and we cannot guarantee that sandbags will be available in sufficient time, or in sufficient quantities to prevent or reduce damage to properties.
If you live in a known flood risk area, you should adopt a self-help approach by purchasing sandbags from your local builders merchants; prepare in advance and respond to forecasts or flood warnings.
Storage of sandbags
Sandbags disintegrate with exposure to the weather so they are not recommended for use after long periods of time. However, they can be stored in a dry place to use again in the near future, as more than one flooding incident can occur in quick succession.
Wherever possible store dry sandbags, as wet bags will decay quicker.
If you are unable to store full sandbags, please empty the dry bags and store the pile of sand in a dry place, keeping the bags so that they can be re-filled.
If you are not storing sandbags for future use, double wrap them (bin liners can be used), and take them to your nearest household waste recycling centre for disposal. Alternatively, the bags can be split open, with the sand dug into your garden, and the empty bags put in your refuse bin.
Please do not place full sandbags or sand in your bin for collection, and do not allow any sand to be washed into drains as this will block them. Wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water afterwards.
Although we do not have a statutory duty to provide sandbags, we will try to support our residents during times of imminent flooding.
Roles and responsibilities for flooding
The responsibilities surrounding drainage and flooding are varied and a number of agencies have a responsibility for dealing with different aspects, depending on the source of water.
Kent County Council manages the risk of surface and groundwater flooding and is also responsible for highways drainage and gullies on the roads they maintain. Highways England is responsible for drainage on trunk roads, like the A21.
Water and sewerage companies manage the risks of flooding from public foul and surface water sewers serving buildings and yards. Home owners are responsible for private foul and surface water drainage up to the point they connect with public sewers (usually at the boundary of the property).
The Environment Agency manages the flood risk from main rivers, Kent County Council manage the risk from other watercourses. Internal Drainage Boards manage water levels of ordinary watercourses in areas known as internal drainage districts.
Riparian owners (those who own the land through which a watercourse runs) have certain legal rights and responsibilities to maintain watercourses (including drainage ditches) which run through or adjacent to their land or property.
Responsibility for flood recovery
After flooding, a multi-agency response is required. These agencies are responsible for each of the different flood recovery activities:
- removing litter from watercourses
- pumping flood water from public areas
- replacing missing or dislodged manholes
- removing silt and sewer debris from public sewers and pumping stations
- controlling access to water hydrant use
- restoring free flowing public sewers
- restoring public wastewater pumping stations
Kent County Council
- cleaning highway debris
- removing silt and debris for highway drains
- repairing safety critical defects that have occurred on the highway
- assessing the impact of flooding on roads and footpaths
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
- washing and removing silt and sewer debris from open spaces
- disposing of flood damaged household items
- assisting with temporary re-housing
- removing sandbags
Property owners and insurance companies
- internal cleaning of properties
- external cleaning (gardens and drives)
- providing dehumidifiers or driers
- pumping out flooded properties
- restoring allotments and food crops
- restoring internal electricity
- restoring free flowing private drainage
- restoring septic tanks
- restoring private wastewater pumping stations
Who is responsible for investigating the cause of flooding?
After signficant incidents of flooding, the Environment Agency, Kent County Council, Southern Water, Tunbridge Wells Borough and others work together to review what happened and identify actions that might be taken to reduce the risk of flooding and / or minimise the impact of flooding. We all have to work within the constraints of our budgets and legal duties but by working together we are often able to achieve more than it we work in isolation.
There are other sources of information about preparing for flooding.
Environment Agency guides
The Environment Agency has produced a number of guides about flooding.
- Planning, managing and recovering from a flood
- What to do before, during and after a flood
- Sandbags: how to use them to prepare for a flood
Flood risk in Tunbridge Wells
The Environment Agency, Kent County Council, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and other agencies have prepared Flood Risk to Communities Tunbridge Wells, for the residents and businesses of the borough.
It provides information on the nature and magnitude of the flood risk across the county and outline the existing and proposed approaches to manage the risks identified.
It has been developed with the help and support of The Environment Agency, Kent County Council, the district councils, Southern Water, Thames Water and the various internal drainage boards that operate within Kent.
Keeping sewers clear
Every year there are thousands of blockages in these pipes, caused by people flushing the wrong things down the toilet or pouring fat, oil and grease down the sink. Keep it Clear explains the simple steps you can take to help protect your home from flooding and help keep our environment clear.
Maintaining your ditches and watercourses
If you own land or property next to a river, stream or ditch you are a riparian landowner. Owning a watercourse on GOV.UK explains responsibilities and rules to follow for watercourses on or near your property.