Tag Archives: flooding

Exit costs and wobbly dikes: Brexit could result in deluges in Britain

As you can imagine, I have been, as Dutchman, watching the developments this summer first in Lincolnshire and recently in Derbyshire around dikes and dams that turned out to be outdated, and uncertain to withstand rivers or lakes filled with excessive amounts of rainwater.

Even in low-lying, water conscious Netherlands we sometimes get caught out by a dike or dam breaking; but Rijkswaterstaat (RWS, founded in the Napoleonic era), our Public Works & Water-Management government agency, is ever alert. And RWS knows from experience that when a certain type of dike or dam is wobbly in one place, it is important to inspect all dikes and dams of the same type and building era, to prevent surprises when one or more similar dikes crumble. That message is always part of RWS press briefings around incidents: local government and irrigation specialists must go out and inspect dams in their area.

In January 1995, a part of the Netherlands where our great rivers (Rhine, Meuse, and tributaries) flow through in the province Gelderland were evacuated because heavy rains, upstream in the Belgian Ardennes and Alsace, meant excessive amounts of water were coming our way, and it wasn’t certain that the existing irrigation infrastructure could cope. In total 250.000 people had to evacuate, for periods from 5 to 15 days.

Up to then, the main attention concerning massive floodings had been concentrated on our North Sea coast, with the memory of the 1953 North Sea flood which was a massive disaster in both the Netherlands and the UK (Lincolnshire flooded up to 3 kilometres inland). But from 1995, RWS and the Benelux and German authorities started a masssive updating, straightening out and adaption program for rivers and internal dikes.

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WATCH: Christine Jardine’s office flooding….

Flash floods hit Edinburgh this afternoon, and Christine Jardine paid the price of having a constituency office at the bottom of a hill on one of the busiest roads in Scotland.

That video now seems to have ended up on most outlets in Scotland and, once the waters had receded, Christine talked to the BBC, Forth, The Evening News, Heart FM and The Sun among other media outlets.

Her main message was to encourage people to look out for elderly neighbours.

The office sofa bed was sacrificed to stem the tide.

Part of the problem was that every time someone drove past the office, it made things worse:

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Government U-turns on EU flood funding in victory for Lib Dems

As many of you know Tim Farron and I have been fighting for months to persuade the government to apply for EU solidarity funding for flood victims. The European Commission had confirmed to me last December that this money was there for the taking, so it was flabbergasting that the government had so far refused to apply on the flimsy grounds that it would not offer immediate help (an application takes a few months to process). The real reason I suspect was that the government was worried about upsetting its eurosceptic backbenchers by asking for help from the rest of Europe in a time of need.

So it came as something of a shock to find out today that finally the Conservatives have U-turned and will be making a last-minute application. This is a huge victory for the Liberal Democrats, who have been piling the pressure on the government on this issue from day one. And of course it is fantastic news for the communities across the North of England and Scotland whose lives were turned upside-down by the floods and who will finally get the additional funding they deserve.

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Government finally bows to pressure from Tim Farron on EU flooding help

At around 50 minutes to the 11th hour, the Government finally agreed to Tim Farron’s request that they apply for EU funding to help with the aftermath of the flooding that hit Cumbria and other areas of Northern England as a result of Storm Desmond on 5 December. The EU Solidarity Fund is there to help out when natural disaster strikes.

Accountancy firm KPMG has estimated the total cost of the flood damage at £5bn, which means that the UK could be eligible for up to £125 million of, of which 10% would be made available immediately. In 2008, the UKreceived £134 million from the fund to help deal with the aftermath of major floods the previous year.

In order to qualify the Government must apply within 12 weeks of when the natural disaster first hit. As Storm Desmond struck Northern England on 5th December, the deadline to apply is Saturday 27th February.

A week ago, Tim Farron handed over a petition signed by 2063 constituents calling for a grant for the EU Solidarity Fund to MEPs from the Regional Committee, which would have to approve any application.

And today, the Government has finally agreed to apply for the money.

Tim said:

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Help needed for floods recovery and prevention

Tim Farron has been writing in the Westmorland Gazette about what needs to be done in the short and long term to repair the damage from December’s floods and take action to prevent them in the future.

He talks about the need to repair vital infrastructure quickly:

In the short-term, there is an urgent need to restore damaged infrastructure, while in the longer term we must look at comprehensive, whole-systems approaches to flood prevention. For far too long, the government has sought to make short-term savings at the expense of long-term investment which would have helped to provide protection from the floods.

The single biggest infrastructure challenge we face is the continued closure of the A591. Although the government has finally committed to undertake in full the required repairs, this crucial route connecting the north and south of the Lake District is due to remain closed until the end of May. Local business people expect thatthis could cost the local economy up to £100million. If this happens, businesses that rely on the tourist trade will go under, and with them the jobs they supported. I am urgently pushing for a solution that will provide relief for local businesses.

In the longer term, there’s a need for a holistic approach to tackle flooding:

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Failed flooding policy finds a scapegoat

Whenever a government loses control of the situation there has to be a scapegoat, and on the issue of flooding it’s not Sir Philip Dilley the Environment Agency chairman who resigned on Monday.  After his PR blunder of refusing to interrupt his holiday to visit the flooded areas he gave up his £100k position on the grounds that what had started out as a part-time non-executive post was now looking suspiciously like actual work. No, this winter’s devastating floods we are asked to believe, weren’t so much the result of government failings, but of an over concern for the protection of wildlife! “If we have to choose between people and wildlife, we will always, of course, choose people,” Sir James Bevan Chief Exec of the Environment Agency told the BBC at the turn of the year.

Like me, you may have been puzzled by this message and couldn’t quite see its relevance to what was happening across the North on that day, and the plot thickened to Bisto consistency a few days later when Liz Truss announced in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference that Defra will be allowing farmers to dredge ‘ditches’ without seeking permission from the Environment Agency because they ‘know their land best’. Her own experts say that dredging is useful for improving navigation and land drainage, but has little value in flood prevention. So again, what was going on?

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Put a Dutchman in the Environment Agency

 

The Dutch people has been commiserating with the British people being flooded, yet again, this past year.

Apart from the many times the North Sea inundated the Netherlands (the last time, 1953, inspired the Delta Works – a massive reconstruction and improvement program of our coastal defences, completed in the 1980s), we suffered massive river floodings in the 1990s from the Rhine (and its branch the Waal past the big city of Nijmegen) and Meuse rivers after heavy rainfall in the Ardennes, Alps and other highlands. In 1995 these forced a big evacuation in the heart of the Netherlands. These floodings were the reason for another massive, nationwide programme of restructuring and improving works, including taking account of Climate Change, under the Second Delta Plan commission and a national Delta Commissioner, who is an influential government advisor.

But being a Dutchman who pays attention to floodings elsewhere, I was struck in the past ten years by the frequency that people in Britain involved in, and victims of, those floods complained about two things:

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Rebuilding Cumbria in the wake of floods

In a column for the North West Evening Mail, Tim Farron talks about the difficulties people continue to face in the floods-hit Lake District:

Importantly we are still not sure when the A591 will be open again between Grasmere and Keswick and that is the major road priority in the county.

As you drive around you cannot help but see damage to lots of roads around the county. Cumbria County Council will be repairing potholes for months to come.

I am doing all I can to press the government to move to address these issues as quickly as possible and to find the money we need to get all the work done.

We have seen the temporary road open up by Thirlmere to get school children and any others who need to travel between Grasmere and Keswick through but this is really only a sticking plaster.

He did, however, make the point that the Lake District was still very much open for business. That made us think that it might be a good idea to go and visit there and see beautiful scenery and enjoy the wonderful restaurants and pubs there. January is always a miserable month, so a visit to somewhere pretty might be just the thing you need to cheer you up:

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Blue foxes, red greens and a gold star

Boxing Day saw the Countryside Alliance wrong footed. The Countryside Alliance for those not in the know is an organisation that masquerades as the champion of rural life but is in fact merely the mouthpiece for blood sports such as fox hunting and grouse shooting. It is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing and on Boxing Day like many others it was caught out by the weather.

Boxing Day is fox hunting’s showpiece day and the Countryside Alliance went wild on Twitter to proclaim that a quarter of a million fox hunters and their supporters had taken to town squares and village greens across the land to celebrate what they see as the impending and inevitable demise of the Hunting Act. With Christmas card scenes of scarlet clad gents and gentesses on horseback trotting ceremoniously in a sea of hounds and polished hunting horns heralding a return to Merry England we were treated to an endless stream of romantic snaps.

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Flood protection or overseas aid? A false choice

Help UK
Over the festive period, I saw the image on the right on a social media site, stating, against a backdrop of flooded housing:

It’s time to STOP sending money abroad and help people in the UK now. LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE if you agree?

A comment under the image mentioned:

…the 250 million we are giving to India to fund their Space Programme.

Oh dear. Where to start? Call me an old pedant, but I’m naturally suspicious of any entreaty which feels the need to include block capitals. But that’s just one of my little foibles.

My mind boggled at the idea that we are giving “250 million” to India to fund their Space Programme. It took just a quick Google to see where that came from. Our old friend the Daily Mail had a remarkably thoroughly, if one-sidedly, researched article on 15th February 2015 which was headlined as follows:

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“Chancellor has key questions to answer on flooding”- Farron

York flooding 2Tim Farron has written to George Osborne to ask him to provide additional funds to help repair flood-hit infrastructure. He also had some fairly pithy comments about David Cameron’s visit to the north, inviting him to do more than parade around in wellies.

He said:

The Government’s approach to flood defences is short-sighted.

In 2012 I said more funding was needed to deal with the torrential rain and ‘freak’ weather that was becoming more prevalent.

In the years since I have repeated that call and do so again today. We need to urgently review every shelved flood defence scheme.

The Prime Minister pulling on his wellies, wading through some water for a photo op and doing a couple of interviews doe not make people believe he is doing enough.

He needs to show he cares about the North by following up his words with deeds.

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York Floods: As the clean up commences, questions must be asked

York Flooding 1Over recent days the news has been full of images of York underwater. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes after the city’s two rivers burst their banks, flooding houses, shops, businesses and threatening historical buildings. The River Ouse peaked at over 5 metres above its typical level, while the River Foss has hit record heights.

We of course owe a debt of gratitude to all the staff and volunteers from the City of York Council, the emergency services, Environment Agency, armed forces and voluntary organisations, for the hard work they have put in (and continue to do with the clean up) to try to minimise the impact of the floods and assist those affected. After the damage this has caused to our city we must now focus on helping residents and businesses through the cleanup. There are however questions that need to be answered including on the planned levels of investment in both flood defence schemes and maintenance of existing defences.

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Farron calls for flood protection for small businesses and much more in Commons speech

Tim Farron has rightly been preoccupied with helping his constituents with the aftermath of the terrible flooding which has hit his Cumbria constituency. His most recent initiative is to ask the Government to extend the Flood Re scheme, which will give insurance protection to home-owners in areas at risk from flooding, to small businesses from April next year.

He cites 125,000 businesses which have either been refused cover completely or quoted an unaffordable price for insurance.

Tim said:

As devastating as the floods have been for home owners here in Cumbria, it has been equally catastrophic for the small businesses which are the backbone of our local economy.

With the impact of climate change this isn’t going to be the last time communities are hit by flooding and it will become more and more difficult for small businesses to get affordable insurance.

The Government needs to get serious about the situation we are in and extend the Flood Re scheme to small businesses, before even more see their businesses devastated by the financial cost of flooding.

Tim won praise from the Federation of Small Businesses yesterday for making the point that Cumbria’s businesses were open and looking for custom:

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How Tim Farron and Willie Rennie are helping constituents cope with crisis

Willie Rennie and Tim Farron have seen the areas they represent in Parliament hit by catastrophe and challenging circumstances. In Cumbria, Storm Desmond and its aftermath has caused devastation that will take months to fully sort out. In Scotland, Willie Rennie’s constituents have been hit by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and the loss of a route that takes 70,000 cars per day. It’s not expected to re-open until the New Year.

Both Willie and Tim do a phenomenal amount of work to stay in touch with the people they represent anyway, but I have been very impressed with the work that both of them are doing to help people affected by these events.

Willie’s Facebook page catalogues all the conversations and correspondence he’s had with the Transport Minister Derek Mackay. He wanted to make sure that he was properly reflecting people’s concerns and put together a survey so that they can tell him what’s going on.  Even before the end of the weekend, he had worked with the Minister to ensure that patients travelling from Fife for Chemo and Radiotherapy in Edinburgh were taken across the Bridge in ambulances rather than have to endure 11 mile tailbacks or take the huge risk of going on public transport, something that can be very dangerous if your immune system is compromised. He’s put a huge effort into keeping people informed. On a smaller scale, when he was MP, his Facebook page was the place here people looked to find out about school closures in that awful Winter of 2009. He is a hands-on representative who uses every method he can to find out what people need. You can see from his Facebook how he is working constructively with the Minister to get stuff done, putting forward his constituents’ suggestions and getting results.

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Tim Farron stranded in storm

 

It was reported on the BBC News at Ten on Saturday night that Tim Farron had been stranded in his car with four children in the stormy weather conditions, in Cumbria with (presumably) a telephone interview with Tim.

I wonder if, while waiting to be picked up, he reflected on the report from Keswick – that the town had launched an appeal for one million pounds to help with the clear up operation that will now be required in the town. If he did he might have recalled that each of the bombing missions now being carried out on Syria, that he had voted for on Wednesday, had been costed by Sky at a little more than this amount.

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The Independent View: Why Lib Dem conference should vote to protect the country from climate change

Flooding in Cedar Rapids, IAYesterday saw the publication of the agenda for Liberal Democrat conference – including a particularly welcome motion on protecting the UK from the impacts of climate change.

‘Adapting to climate change’ (Policy Motion F19, debated at 9am on Monday 6th October) calls on the government to “Ensure flood defence spending is kept in line with that needed to protect against climate change impacts”. This is a vital commitment that we sincerely hope Lib Dem conference will support. It will directly help protect hundreds of thousands of households …

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Opinion: Woodland and Water – a success story in Kent with no de-silting and dredging

IMG-20131226-00110Almost 1,000 properties were affected by flooding from rivers across Kent earlier this year. However, against this backdrop there were small glimmers of hope.

A local success story involves the River Len, a small and heavily urbanised tributary of the River Medway in Maidstone. In autumn 2000, under similar rainfall conditions, the Len had flooded commercial and residential property in Maidstone town centre.

In 2002, the acquisition of 2.5 hectares of the River Len corridor was negotiated by Maidstone Council as environmental mitigation for a new supermarket and business park extension. …

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Opinion: How my life changed forever – 100 days in!

At the start of this year I was a Lib Dem from Yorkshire working and studying in London who according to some journalists was an “unknown” – although I was quite well known in certain Lib Dem circles, especially for my quiches! The resignation of Diana Wallis, as Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber changed all that.

In 2009 I was third on the Lib Dem list for Yorkshire and the Humber. When you are third on a regional list and the …

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    How disappointing that you referred to the colour of Joe's dress before you commented on what she said.... So disappointing.
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