Having met with the Flooding Minister and held a Flooding Forum with residents and local agencies, it looks like we need Dad’s Army to hold back the floods, says West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper. The only answer from the agencies seemed to be we should get our own sandbags and help each other!
Homes, farm land, and entire communities in West Lancashire have been devastated by flooding on several occasions in recent years. Yet there is still no action plan and no real answers to how homes, businesses and local communities can be better protected from future flooding incidents as heavy rainfall increases in regularity and severity.
On Wednesday 6 July 2016, MP Rosie Cooper met with Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs responsible for floods and water at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. MP Rosie went to the meeting seeking action necessary to help local communities devastated by flooding and for support ahead of five satellite pumping stations being turned off in 2017.
During the meeting Rosie was clear that the government couldn’t talk of their action over flooding whilst standing back from taking any action to address the core problems, especially at a time when they are cutting the budgets of local agencies involved in tackling flooding, such as the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council.
Following the ministerial meeting, MP Rosie said:
“It is clear the government policy is one of clean up and repair rather than prevention when it comes to flooding.
“From speaking to the Minister his opinion is that local agencies can and should be doing more in times of floods and in flood prevention. One instance being that planning authorities should not be granting planning permission for new housing developments that would exacerbate flooding problems, and that if they do the permission should be ‘called in’ meaning referred to Government.
“He said the strategic lead flood authority, Lancashire County Council, should be actually taking the lead in the emergency response when there is flooding and that it’s their job to help people not just collect the data and write the reports afterwards, which I think will come as a surprise to them.
” ‘It’s everyone else’s responsibility’ is exactly the reason for the failures in not better protecting people’s homes from flooding. Once again the government has no answers and no solutions when it comes to flooding and what happens if we don’t avoid turning off the pumping stations.
Bringing the Minister’s messages back to West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper organised and chaired a Flooding Forum meeting attended by representatives of key local agencies and 29 local residents from across West Lancashire, who’ve been affected by flooding.
For two hours the discussion reviewed the areas affected by flooding with residents sharing their individual experiences of the devastation caused by floods. Agencies were asked to outline their response to flooding incidents and their plans for a more effective response in the future.
In summarising the outcome of the Flooding Forum, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“Understandably residents feel angry and alone. The lack of support in response to recent flooding has left them asking what they pay their taxes, council rates and water bills for. We heard of homes flooded on six occasions! When they needed help to protect their homes and their businesses it was all too little and too late.
“Whilst there are no easy answers to addressing flooding, not to have answers at all is deeply worrying for me and local residents.
“Both the police and the fire brigade who have no responsibility for tackling flooding incidents except where life is in danger have done a sterling job in responding but they need help through prevention measures as well as reducing the burden placed on them.”
“West Lancashire has been hit by severe flooding in 2012, Boxing Day 2015 and in June 2016. Still no lessons have been learned, there are no apparent improvements and no progress on addressing long-term problems such as infrastructure capacity.
“Action needs to start by addressing the ‘everyone is responsible but nobody is in charge’ problem. This doesn’t work and is a recipe for disaster.
“We need solutions that work. In the meeting we heard that the air bricks and floodgates being recommended for flood prevention have proven to be ineffective.
“Residents also wanted to know why Lancashire County Council and the Environment Agency had bought a pump for Croston whilst West Lancashire is facing having five pumps turned off. Residents were angry that grids were not cleared regularly and had examples where Lancashire County Council said they were clear and they remain silted up.
“Having sat through two meetings with all the people responsible for protecting our homes from Government ministers to local agencies, it appears they have no answers and certainly no solutions.
” ‘Rely on communities to help each other’ was all the agencies could offer. Residents feared what would happen when they were on holiday or at work, so it would appear that we need to get our own sandbags and rely on those who are at home all day to be our ‘flooding prevention front line.
“For now West Lancashire is going to need that Dad’s Army spirit as communities are left to get on with helping each other it seems.”
The Flooding Forum took place on Thursday 7 July 2016 at The Civic hall in Ormskirk. It was attended by representatives from the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Lancashire Police, United Utilities and West Lancashire Borough Council.
It was agreed a further meeting would be held in November 2016 to update residents.