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Pathfinder Projects

Mary Dhonau looks at the contribution made by the DEFRA and EA commissioned PFR Pathfinder projects along with sharing a few of her personal PFR related experiences.

This September marks the end of three, 2-year Defra Commissioned Pathfinder Property Flood Resilience (PFR) Projects.

The projects are based in Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall and in the Ox-Cam arc (Northants, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire). The projects were charged with raising awareness of the benefits, and increasing the uptake, of PFR. The projects were delivered during incredibly challenging times, where face-to-face community outreach wasn’t an option for a large proportion of time. Those working on the projects had to work hard and think outside the box when trying to reach-out to those living at risk of flood. Tribute must be paid to all involved for their tenacity, hard work and determination!

Flood risk management is a jigsaw of many pieces all working together to reduce flood risk. Increasingly we are seeing huge volumes of water falling in localised areas and we hear how a ‘months worth’ of rain has fallen in only a few hours, causing devastating flooding in its wake. Also, our winters are getting increasingly wet. According to the Environment Agency, winter rain is set to increase by a staggering 59% by 2050! Flood risk can be managed but not stopped.

That is why Property Flood Resilience plays a vital role for everyone on the receiving end. When all the flood risk management interventions are overwhelmed and saturated, it is our homes and our businesses that are sadly flooded.

PFR substantially reduces recovery time

I have talked to so many people over the years who have all told me that recovery from being flooded is far worse than the flood itself; it is extremely stressful and time consuming. In my book, anything we can do to reduce the misery is time and money well spent.

I know from first-hand experience the benefits of ‘recoverable repair’ and everyone I have talked to who have installed PFR tell the same story. Instead of being forced out of their homes or businesses for, on average, nine months whilst their properties are repaired, they were able to instead return to their homes and businesses in just 24 hours - or have not been flooded at all!

Let me share just one story with you. Karen from Appleby was flooded during Storm Desmond in 2015 when 1.5 metres of filthy floodwater entered her home. (It was so deep, even her piano was upended). She was out of her home for eight months, with an insurance bill of £48,000.

After installing a flood barrier, tiling floors, raising plug sockets, adding waterproof plaster put on to her walls, and very importantly planning in advance what to do the next time it flooded, when the river reached similar levels in 2020, she only had 5cm of water in her home. After sweeping the water out and sanitising, she was able to return home within just 24 hours and made no insurance claim. For more stories like Karen’s click here:

Supporting Communities

I have been out on the road recently talking to many people from communities that have been flooded in recent times – or are at risk of future flooding. Some were naturally very angry or emotional, however once we were able to talk to them about the (often simple) measures they could take to reduce the impact, they left feeling that they too could take control and restore peace of mind ahead of the next flood.

Seeing examples of PFR products and measures up close and being able to ask experts as many questions as possible, was greatly welcomed. They not only valued the honest and open communication on the topic of flooding, but took free information, guides, and advice home with them to research the whole topic in more detail.

The three national PFR Pathfinder projects have left a significant legacy of amazing resources, videos, e-books and information, which will be available for those who live at flood risk both today and in the future. It will hopefully inspire and enthuse them to take back control, install PFR, and live life with a little less worry when the next downpour occurs.

Mary Dhonau OBE

Pathfinder Project Links: