Feedback review

A Report on Written Feedback given for the Resilient York Conference

By Duncan Marks (MA student in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings), University of York) – pdf download.

Introduction

A two-question written feedback questionnaire was distributed before the final session of the Resilient York conference, 4 November 2016.

Speakers, organisers and audience members were asked to answer two questions:

  • What are your feedback thoughts from the event?
  • What specific initiatives and actions would like to see YCT / University of York community to take forward?

There were 31 completed feedback responses in total.

From the collective feedback, a number of themes standout in relation to each question.

Q.1 Feedback thoughts from the event?

Five themes cover the response to the first feedback question:

  • Planning
  • Coordination
  • Empowerment
  • Human dimension
  • Accountability

These five themes are detailed below. Each theme has illustrative anonymous quotes and a summary box.

PLANNING:

“York needs to stop working in isolation”

“Danger in expecting the government to pick up the pieces. Government only works well at a particular scale”

“We should focus more on resilience than flood prevention”

“Flooding will continue to happen. We need to plan ahead to minimise the impact”

Summary:  
At a practical, civic level was the call for the Flood Barrier failure not to be repeated. There was a particular strong interest in approaches to managing risk and how to respond, with practical approaches and tools needing to be made available in order to helping those affected being very prominent.

Planning was seen too in a realist way. As flooding is a continual threat, only planning ahead can help minimise its affect. And this planning might focus more on resilience than flood prevention.

Planning was seen in a collectivist way. On a micro level, the need to organise and manage the community as a workforce for the historic environment was expressed. On a bigger, macro level, it was warned that York needs to stop working in isolation.

At a structural level, planning needs to be done at local, regional and national levels, with channels of dialogue across each; we should not rely on the Government to find all the solutions and answers to what are local level issues and problems.

COORDINATION:

“The event’s useful in bringing groups together who deal with the same issues from very different angles”

“Need to think how all the various perspectives expressed can be put together”

“Important to share knowledge & expertise around the resilience of historical buildings & building materials & encouraging their wider use”

“There’s currently a lack of a united, national response or strategy to flooding“

Summary:
There is need for greater networking and collaborations in resiliency. Feedback replies advocate this as needed at numerous structural levels, but mostly at a national level, with the need for a united, national response or strategy to flooding.

In terms of expertise in resiliency of historic buildings and materials, it was stressed that it is important to share such knowledge, and that we might think about how best to embed this within the community.

The conference was viewed as useful in bringing various stakeholders and interest parties – who deal with the same issues but form very different angles – together. It was identified that we need to now think how to combine all the various perspectives in going forward.

EMPOWERMENT:

“Need for individual & community level proactive action and empowerment in conjunction with Local Authority / Government Agency action (not instead of)”

“Knowing that flooding is a natural process certainly changes perceptions, beliefs & actions”

“People have the power to make decisions to help themselves if we empower them & give them the right support”

“Need to develop local flood culture”

“Role of social media in galvanising community resilience & volunteer help is important”

“We should focus more on resilience than flood prevention”

Summary:
In many forms, desired empowerment was an underlying theme in the Resilient York conference feedback.

Empowerment was predominantly favoured of local people or communities to help them be pro-active to make their own decisions rather than rely on environmental and civic agencies to act on their behalf. In doing so it would help develop a local flood culture. However, individual and community level action should work in conjunction with Local Authorities and government agencies, but not instead of it.

Having available advice was key to this empowerment.

Some saw the power of social media to disseminate knowledge as a great tool to galvanize community resilience. As a cautionary warning, it was also stressed that advice needs to be clear and accurate – which might question the effectiveness of relying on social media. A good place to start would be for York to be clear in what it means by resilience.

HUMAN DIMENSION:

“Human resilience & its support is of greater importance than bricks and mortar”

“People first; practical useful actions, shared insight & experience are vital

“Small actions matter, individuals can help”

“Shouldn’t forget the people behind the buildings & built environment”

Summary:
Feedback picked out that the conference rightly emphasised and celebrated the human dimension of flooding, which can otherwise easily be overlooked or forgotten in favour of narratives featuring economic loss and damage to (historic) fabric.

There is a direct overlap here with the call to empower communities and individuals, such as in allowing flooded communities to be active itself helping them recover better socially and emotionally, and the belief that in allowing the individual to help, small actions matter too.

ACCOUNTABILITY:

“Advice & response from certain agencies, especially insurance companies, is inappropriate”

“Insurance companies are more hindrance than help”

Summary:
Feedback drew attention to a number of existent grievances. Prime culprits were the insurance industry, the advice from certain (unnamed) agencies, and some scrupulous property developers.

 

 Q. 2. Specific initiatives and actions would like to see YCT / University of York community take forward:

Seven themes cover the written feedback response the second question, with selected quotes provided on the following pages.

The seven themes are detailed below. Each theme has illustrative anonymous quotes.

  • Creation of information resources
  • Insurance issues
  • Closer interaction
  • Further events
  • Building regulations
  • Alternative water management
  • (Social) Media

 

 

CREATION OF INFORMATION RESOURCE(S)

“Some kind of handbook &/or on-line resource on ‘what to do’ would be useful – may be essential, addressed in local terms with local examples & contacts”

“A York Charter should be signed by conference representatives to provide guidelines on flooding response”

“Delve into the archives & tell the stories!”

“Need more information on low-cost preventive options for the general public – easy to access & understand”

“Set out clear actions people can take to help themselves”

“Embed understanding & learning into the local community – possibly by producing a pack

INSURANCE ISSUES

“Find a way to persuade insurers of alternative approaches that can not only minimise damage to historic buildings but will also allow the buildings to be restored to use more quickly”

“Support householders with advice to negotiate with insurers & make informed decisions”

“Exert pressure nationally to address issues with Insurance Companies & loss adjusting”

“Involve an insurance spokesperson in the next event (we have a major insurance HQ in York!)”

CLOSER INTERACTION

“A York-based ‘Emergency Resources Network’ – organised through the York Consortium for Crafts? could assist with everything from museum collections, archives, to family heirlooms”

“Information as to how to deal with the aftermath of flooding & developing confidence in dealing with insurance companies would be very helpful”

“Specific to local areas, there’s a need for a database of conservation accredited contractors who could be engaged to circumnavigate Listed Building Consent issues & deal correctly with historic buildings”

“Need for easy access to flood advice for general household planning & post-flooding”

“Having conservation consortium contacts would be a great idea”

FURTHER EVENTS

“Create a clear definition of what resilience means for York and its citizens”

“A workshop(s) for the city, not only University and Trust, but residents & businesses who want to work together to make a difference”

“Liaise with other research centres across the country doing similar work”

“A forum/group open to all with regular meetings & updates”

“The Environment Observatory is a good way forward to pull together many initiatives”

“An international conference next, perhaps?”

“Liaise with other urban centres in UK with similar problems”

BUILDING REGULATIONS

“Flood Design Certificates for new properties, involving the Council, with the aim to go above & beyond the Building Regulations”

“Carry out or offer building vulnerability surveys”

“Aim to develop in York examples of ‘pre-approval’ for flood recovery plans for listed buildings?”

ALTERNATIVE WATER MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

“Look at long-term solutions to provide more ways to slow down the run off from the York moors”

(SOCIAL) MEDIA

“More advice on the use of social media to enlist support & volunteers in a more structured way would help”

“More effective organisation of the communication when flooding occurs”

Summary Of Specific Initiatives & Actions To Be Taken Forward By University Of York / York Civic Trust:

The summary box below highlights four strands of ‘next steps’ that were either thematically (in response to Q.1) or directly (in response to Q.2) referenced in the written feedback.

These strands are presented as the preference of those whom were present at the conference as to where they would like the University of York & York Civic Trust to aim to build on the foundations of the conference.

Publications
  • Production of an easy-access information resource to help embed understanding and learning of flooding and its impact on communities and material damage of the (historic) built environment into the local community.
Direction
  • Using the experiences of local flooded residents (“delve into the archives and tell the stories!”), set out clear actions that individuals and communities might take in advance of, during, and after a flooding event.
  • Create a clear definition and vision of what resilience means for the people of York.
  • Work with the insurance industry to adopt alternative approaches in the restoration of flood-damaged historic buildings and objects.
  • Help develop a culture of planning for resilience at a local level.
  • Introduce Flood Design Certificates for new-built properties with the City of York Council’s support, carry out or offer vulnerability surveys for existing (historic) properties or, for properties likely to flood, ‘pre-approval’ planning applications.
Networks
  • Create a database of conservation-accredited contractors and their contacts.
  • Co-ordinate heritage, conservation, museum skills — an ‘Emergency Resources Network’ — across the city (possibly the foundation of a regular forum from those attending the conference, even) to be available to assist communities affected by flooding.
Further research
  • Liaise with other urban and/or research centres in the UK with similar problems or research.

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