Flooding: Defra's Reply...
Last month, we published Rod Sturdy's open letter to Elizabeth Truss MP which posed a number of key questions relating to flood management. Defra have now responded...
I have now had a reply to my recent open letter to Elizabeth Truss at Defra, which was published HERE on flyfishing.co.uk. Rather disappointingly, it came not from Elizabeth Truss personally, but is a standard letter sent out to members of the public.
Anyway, here it is, followed by a few comments from me:
Thank you for your email about the impact of the recent storms and flooding in the north of England.
We have received exceptionally high volumes of correspondence on the winter storms and flooding. Due to the need to focus our efforts on the recovery, it will not be possible to address every individual concern. However, I hope this information about the Government’s response is helpful.
December 2015 brought some enormously challenging and extreme weather conditions to the north, and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to all those affected. The Prime Minister and Ministers from Defra have visited affected towns and communities and seen for themselves the terrible impact the flooding has had on homes and businesses in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The North West faced the wettest December on record, resulting in the flooding of around 16,000 flooded properties. Cumbria experienced the highest UK rainfall recorded in a 24-hour period, while its main rivers exceeded their highest levels ever. Many rivers in Lancashire were at record levels while the Aire and the Wharfe in Yorkshire were up to a metre higher than ever before. This caused significant impacts on local power supply, transport, bridges and telecommunications.
While of little consolation to those people flooded, it is important to note that existing flood defences protected around 20,000 properties. These defences also enabled emergency responders to warn residents and get them to safety. During the Christmas period, the Environment Agency, emergency services and army worked 24/7 deploying rescue boats, pumps and 85% of the country’s temporary flood barriers in the region. Around 700 military personnel were deployed, with around a further 1,000 on standby. The RAF played a vital role in delivering power generators to the Foss Barrier in York and repairing defences in Croston in Lancashire using a Chinook helicopter.
Our focus now is on helping people get their homes, businesses and communities back up and running. That is why the Government has provided almost £200 million to help those affected by the floods to support recovery and repair.
Since 2009, we have invested £45 million on new flood defences in Cumbria, and are already spending £280 million in Yorkshire and £120 million in Lancashire to protect thousands of houses from flooding. In addition, we have begun our six-year programme to upgrade flood defences, with £2.3 billion being invested on 1,500 schemes to better protect 300,000 homes, up to 420,000 acres of agricultural land, over 200 miles of railway, and 340 miles of roads. This will be supported by a further £600 million in partnership funding; of which £250 million has already been secured and sources for the other £350 million identified. This is a real terms increase on the £1.7 billion we spent in the last parliament, which was in turn a real terms increase on the £1.5 billion invested between 2005 and 2010.
Furthermore, on 3 January the Prime Minister committed more than £40 million to repair and upgrade flood defences overwhelmed by the record rainfall of recent weeks and make them more resilient to further bad weather. Ten million pounds of this will be reserved to improve the Foss Barrier protecting York, while the other £30 million will be spent repairing defences on the Wharfe, Calder, Aire, Ouse and Derwent rivers.
We have commenced a National Flood Resilience Review to ensure the country can deal with increasingly extreme weather events. Complementing this work, the Natural Capital Committee will develop the catchment-based approach we are now using for environment planning, including slowing the flow upstream.
The Government’s flooding response in Yorkshire will be overseen by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, who has been appointed by the Prime Minister as flooding envoy to the county. Robert Goodwill’s role will complement that of Flooding Minister Rory Stewart’s role as flood envoy. As is normal after any flooding event, we will reflect on any lessons we can learn.
Further details on flood funding can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/flood-recovery-households-and-businesses while guidance on what to do following a flood is on the GOV.UK website at: www.gov.uk/government/collections/flooding-health-guidance-and-advice. Local Authority websites will also have information on any local flood assistance available.
Defra - Customer Contact Unit
As is usual when dealing with hot political topics, the above letter quotes amounts of money which have been spent on this, that or the other measure. The figures are of course supposed to reflect what a particular government has done to tackle a particular problem. All very well, provided the measures taken are effective ones.
There is no mention, of course, of the vast amounts of money paid to farmers, both upland and lowland, to continue with farming practices which cause, or contribute to, flooding.
However, the third paragraph from the end does offer a hint of progress being made when it mentions ‘the catchment-based approach we are now using for environmental planning’.
And furthermore, I read recently in the press that the Flood Review, headed by Oliver Letwin, had let it be known that they were now in favour of paying farmers to store water on their land, rather than encouraging them to get rid of it at top speed. Elizabeth Truss has also subsequently said that she now wants landowners to be paid for allowing new reservoirs to be built on their land in order to reduce the flow into rivers.
If these intentions become reality, then we can indeed be pleased that some changes have been made, both towards flood prevention and proper treatment of our rivers.
I am pleased to say that the organisation for anglers which I support, the Angling Trust, has played a part in the battle to persuade government that the wholesale dredging of rivers and streams, so commonly seen 20 years ago and more, is, apart from being destructive, counter-productive.
Articles by the same author
- Flooding: Defra's Reply...
- Flooding: An Open Letter to Defra
- Saving Our Chalk Streams - It's Time to Fight!
- Fly Fishing for Pike, by David Wolsoncroft-Dodds - Book Review