Extreme flood risks

Writers Posted 02/09/19
Hyped-up stories surely make something of a nonsense of planning policies.

Presumably I am not alone in believing that very many of the news stories fed to us through our news media are untrue, printed to scare or influence, rather than inform us, the public? I question any stories which perhaps start with ‘Could’, ‘Might’, ‘May’, ‘People are saying’ or ‘Reports say’. As an example, recent reports of the rising temperatures at the world’s two poles needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

These particular hyped-up stories surely make something of a nonsense of planning policies, particularly in the South East of the UK. Alarmist reports talk of ‘sea level rises approaching six feet across the globe’ so, to my simple way of thinking, this would put many thousands of homes, old and more particularly new/planned, across this country alone, in extreme jeopardy.

If the median sea level rose worldwide, it would have catastrophic effects, not only for coastal areas in the UK. I have written about it before here but, if government really believes these climate change ‘experts’ why are the planning authorities so hell bent on granting planning permission for our low coastal areas in the first place?

In my part of Sussex, it isn’t just the coastal strip at risk but, because of the almost total dereliction of their responsibilities for drainage by the Environment Agency, the risk spreads well inland, indeed right into the South Downs. Anyone who knows the southern river valleys well will be only too aware of the extreme flood risks, right up through the Downs and beyond, and how heavy rainfall and high tides meeting, cause extensive flood risk. So imagine what happens if the sea level rises some six feet? That’s if you believe these ‘world climate experts’.

Yet many thousands more homes continue to be granted permission in areas which would inevitably be seriously affected. One only has to look at OS maps to see the risk areas; and they are very populated areas too. Please don’t think this is ‘fake news’ either. Although it is based on so called opinion of these ‘experts’. If the sea levels rise, as they are predicting, the tides won’t stop at our shingle beaches but break through the old sea defences which have been doing their job pretty well for centuries.

They would of course work even better were the EA to accept their past responsibility for maintenance, instead of sitting back and concentrating more on creating wildlife habitats. Meanwhile housing for the human population slips into the sea through their neglect.

Without some quick, positive action being forthcoming, the planners need to decide who they believe. If that be the doom mongering ‘experts’…. perhaps they should look to be granting future ‘consents’ well up towards the higher ground. Because these predictions indicate the South Downs may well become the southern extremity of the United Kingdom within half a century?

This process is already well advanced in many areas, and I can only speak for the ones I know, but without a ‘sea change’ in action by the EA these southern tidal valleys will, within a very few years, become inland seas during winters and high rainfall periods. If this is to be avoided, the solution is surely for urgent steps to approve, fund and instigate, river dredging to speed the flow of waters to the sea; instead of flooding thousands of acres, including dwellings and farmland.

Younger generations may well believe ‘food comes from supermarket shelves’ but if we lose productive farmland to flooding, their food will become scarcer and ever more expensive.

Here on my home patch, the same concern needs almost more urgent attention. Where the centuries old system of local hand dug Rifes, increasingly neglected by the Agency for a quarter of a century, have silted up critically and now restrict water flow to the sea. Work, previously done by experienced gangs has given way to almost total EA neglect and ‘enforcement’ threats to landowners, closely to be followed by flash flooding, largely caused by thousands of new houses discharging their surface waters into drains, and then directly into these silted main drainage systems. Rifes and deep ditches were created over centuries, designed for waters permeating more slowly through farmland. Yet today the waters arrive on the flood plain within a day of falling from the sky. Houses are being built too close to these areas.

This surface water has to go somewhere or it backs up onto even more productive farmland, containing some of the best soil in the British Isles. When this is mentioned to local authorities one is met with a shrug of the shoulders and ‘It’s the EA policy’. Many country people already know where the problem lies. It is indeed firmly within the remit of the Environment Agency. A department that is letting itself and the country down, because it appears to have its priorities, as the old expression goes, “arse about face.” One gets the impression too many of its officers, and there are many, seem very competent at sitting in their offices, yet ignoring their responsibilities and making life more and more difficult for the rest of us.

These are not just the views of one farmer but shared quite widely with other countrymen who have to suffer the whims of a department that has completely lost touch with reality. Voles and Crested Newts will continue to survive. Clear the river systems and do your duty to the country. Maybe Theresa Villiers the new environment minister, could learn a lot from the work of earlier minister Owen Paterson. Following the severe flooding on the Somerset Levels. The River Parrett had silted up in similar fashion, so he authorised its urgent dredging, to great effect.

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