Wokingham Times

I have been working with the anti flooding groups in the constituency. Too many homes have already been built on floodplains. Too little work has been done by the Environment Agency and the other main players to dig enough ditches, lay enough pipes and keep conduits clear so when it rain heavily the water goes away safely.

One of the problems has been top down planning. The government has set high targets for new development. Government Inspectors over turn local decisions on appeal, where Councillors rightly reject a planning application because it would be on flood plain or place other stresses on our local services and environment. I raised this issue again in the Commons, only to infer from the reply that these Ministers still want to boss local government around and do not wish to give Wokingham freedom to make its own decisions about its green fields and water meadows.Nor do ther Ministers wish to reduce their targets so it is easier to avoid making the flooding problem worse.

Another has been the lack of action to tackle the excess run off of surface water, and the likelihood of the Loddon and the Emm overflowing their banks when it rains hard. I have been promised proper schemes for both the Emm and the Loddon, but we still await real plans with money to implement them. Local groups are energetic and are working with Council officers to establish what the Borough can do. We are all lobbying the Environment Agency to rise to their responsibilities for the rivers and streams.

This week sees the continuing passage of the Fllood Bill through the Commons. I will attend to make our points, but it’s schemes and cash we need more than additional legislation. Acts of Parliament do not turn back the angry waters – dams, bunds, channels, bigger pipes and deeper ditches are what is needed.

If there is a change of government we are promised greater freedom for each Council to make up its own mind on planning matters. I would welcome that, and would hope that Borough Councillors would then come to the veiw that there are limits to how many extra homes we can build in our District. Existing residents want to preserve what is good about their current enviroinment. Above all residents want to be free of worry when it rains. Today all too many are afraid that bad weather will bring fast run off from so much concrete and tarmac, and with it sodden gardens and wet carpets.

Surely we can do better than that? A bit of commonsense, and some pre-emptive work on the water courses would buy us some peace of mind.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    It is happening everywhere; the desire for more homes is outweighing any other considerations on the government's agenda. The Department of the Environment clearly needs renaming as it clearly hasn't the slightest interest in the subject!
    Where I live (in a not too distant constituency from you own) considerable building is taking place as the result of the demolition of large old properties with huge gardens. The problem here isn't so much the building as such, but the fact that the infrastructure can no longer cope. The rush hour bottle-necks in town have become all-day bottle-necks, the local GPs can't cope and when it rains, water now comes out of the drains in the slightly lower parts of town. A neighbour (who knows) now tells me that the local electricity sub-station is almost at maximum capacity and no agreement can be reached on its upgrading. I suspect that the water and gas supplies might have similar problems.
    And the local stream/river dries up regularly and the water company faces shortages because less water is getting into the aquifer due to the run-off now going into drains.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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