Once in a century – again

The BBC headline today is as follows:

England flooding: PM to chair Cobra meeting over floods

I am pretty sure that anyone living in the Levels, if not in Somerset more widely will remember that headline. The same issue, the same intervention, the same root cause back in the spring of 2014. Then Prime Minister David Cameron coming in and trying to get the problem fixed. And remember our floods were supposed to be a once in a century event. And that was just five years ago….

It is depressing to read the story from the Don Valley. About 400 homes have been flooded and 1,200 properties evacuated and to make matters worse a yellow warning for rain remains in place over parts of Yorkshire and the East Midlands.

While you can only sympathise with the plight of those in Yorkshire right now, here in Somerset the echoes are impossible to ignore. Take these two quotes from the BBC reporting in Yorkshire today:

Farmer Robert Robinson said: “We desperately need the River Don to be dredged and cleaned out, it’s there to transport water and it’s not doing its job properly.”

Stephen Gilleard, another farmer from the village, said: “There’s a lot of volume of water here to move, we’ve still not got no pumps in place starting to get rid of any of it, it’s a bad forecast for Thursday, more rain to come, and, unless we move some of this water, there’s no room for any more.”

So just five years after the flooding on the Somerset Levels in another area of the country we see a lack of dredging and an inability to deploy pumps promptly.  Is it time to recognise that the Environment Agency (EA) is part of the problem not part of the solution?

Meanwhile the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) is at least getting some dredging done. Not everyone likes the SRA but it has at least dredged rivers that the EA point blank refused to dredge. But the SRA needs funding. David Warburton’s Private Members Bill was shot down by a couple of prominent members of the House of Lords.

So what next? Rebecca Pow was the Minister in the Johnson Government responsible. Before Parliament broke up for the election, she had still not agreed to get funding for the SRA put into the Government’s Environment Bill.

Perhaps when she is on the campaign trail, voters will ask her what exactly she is going to do about it and when?

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