Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Floods, Floods and More Floods

Earlier this week I was speaking to a colleague who had just returned from a holiday in Sri Lanka and she remarked that the only news she had seen about the UK while she was away was a CNN report concerning the flooding on the Somerset Levels. I think this highlights the severity of the situation which is facing farmers and householders on the Somerset Levels.

Certainly the Media have embraced the situation which has attracted the attention of government ministers, the Prime Minister and last week even the Prince of Wales, all of whom have acknowledged the plight of those whose livelihoods and homes are being threatened by rising flood waters.

Back in early January I wrote about the flooding, explaining that winter flooding is not in general as damaging to agriculture as the summer floods we saw in 2012, but I have to say I was not expecting the situation to continue getting worse over the ensuing four weeks.

At the time of writing this article, householders and livestock are being evacuated from villages such as Moorland as the water levels continue to rise. There are properties being flooded which have not flooded in living memory, while James Winslade, a farmer from Moorland has had to transport more than 500 of his cattle to Sedgemoor Market which has opened its doors to act as a collection centre for evacuated stock from where other farmers can pick them up to re-home them.

Sedgmoor Market auctioneer, Robert Venner said the support from local farmers and businesses has been “absolutely staggering”. But Ian Johnson, NFU spokesman in the South West, said the flooding and misery caused to farmers and homeowners was “completely avoidable.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) South West Director, John Mortimer, said that everyone involved, including the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, now agreed that dredging was essential as a rapid solution.

“Work should start as soon as practically possible but it may well need to continue for some years until the whole system – including those sections managed by the Internal Drainage Boards - has yielded up its stored silts and deposits,” he said.

He went on to comment, “The initial work should be paid for by Central Government but we will then have to deliver a full and detailed appraisal of what it will cost to maintain and manage the system once it has been restored to design capacity.”

However, with more storms forecast, it seems inevitable that things are going to get worse before they get better but perhaps the one good thing that has come out of all this misery is the acceptance, at the very highest level, that extra money will need to be provided by government to dredge the main water courses even if the ongoing responsibility will then revert to farmers and landowners in the locality.

James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells

T: 01749 683381

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