West Sussex County Council has given every community in the county a powerful tool to protect themselves against flooding.
All 159 parish, town and neighbourhood councils now have a free licence for three years to access online data mapping tool Parish Online – thanks to Operation Watershed.
Parish Online is a system based on geographical GIS mapping data.
Users have access to Ordnance Survey maps.
They show data, provided by flood authorities in West Sussex and beyond, of drainage systems, ditches, gullies, culverts, flood zones, areas of flood risk and bore holes among others.
For years parish and town councils have struggled when planning flood resilience work in their communities because they have not had clear access to key information and mapping data.
Now with this information at their fingertips, this data can be viewed in one place.
This is the first Operation Watershed scheme that benefits every parish, town and neighbourhood in the county.
Sussex and Surrey Association of Local Councils (SALC) successfully applied for £27,217 from Operation Watershed to pay for the licences.
SALC Chief Executive Trevor Leggo said: “SALC is very pleased to work with West Sussex County Council on the further development of Parish Online in general, and with Operation Watershed in particular.
“This map based system, already used by a number of local councils in West Sussex, enables them to share information of value to them and their community.
“The County Council and SALC have negotiated a licensed arrangement with Parish Online so that it will be available to local councils free of charge for the next three years.
“The relevance of information and its usage is virtually limitless as far as communities are concerned; the package is sufficiently flexible to be focused on local needs.”
West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, Bob Lanzer, said: “Water does not stop at a parish boundary.
“What we have found during Operation Watershed is that parishes have to work with their neighbours to solve a problem.
“Now with Parish Online data, information can be shared across borders.
“You can see which ditch goes over which boundary, or which way a water course flows from.
“This can only help working out how to solve flooding issues between neighbouring parishes, or between parishes and landowners, in areas of the county.”
Communities can add to the data and fill in missing gaps on the maps.
The aim is to create a two-way flow of information between local communities and flood authorities.
Contact details, case studies, and videos can all be uploaded and logged on the maps so communities can share knowledge and experience of flooding projects.
Bob added: “Once parishes have access to all the information affecting their areas, they can act as the eyes and ears of West Sussex Highways in flood prone locations.
“This resource does not have to be restricted to flooding information either.
“The potential is there for it to be adapted for other community actions, such as winter preparations.”
A briefing to parish councils will be presented at SALC’s Spring Conference, which takes place at Lodge Hill, Pulborough on March 30.
Training sessions will also be organised from around the middle of May onwards.
You can find out more about Parish Online here.
More information about Operation Watershed can be found here.