I am dusting down the submissions I have made over the years to have a successful counter flooding strategy. Necessity should be the mother of invention.
The first task must be to cut inward migration to the government’s reduced targets, to reduce the demand to build more homes. In and near residential areas, more homes means more concrete and tarmac, faster run off of water, and more water to handle. All too often new homes are built on low lying land.
The second task should be to refuse planning permission for new properties on floodplain and other low lying land prone to water problems. Only if a developer puts forward a plan to handle all the extra water a development will generate, handle all the fast run off the hard surfaces will create and make a contribution to improving water management in the area should permission be considered.
The third task is to change the balance of spending in the Environment Agency, so more of its budget is spent on traditional water course management and maintenance. I have fought many a long battle to get better water course maintenance for the local River Loddon in my area. The EA remains reluctant to dredge, to tidy banks and to remove blockages.
The fourth task is to identify holding fields and areas above settlements where water in extreme weather can be diverted to flood countryside rather than housing. Farmers should of course be compensated, which would be cheaper than the rebuild costs of flooded property.
The fifth task is to complete better embankments, culverts and diverted watercourses where streams and rivers cause problems.
None of this requires pioneering technology. The Dutch have kept back the sea and lived happily on land below sea level for centuries, thanks to dams, embankments, pumps, canals, culverts, ditches and an active programme of land and water management. They have managed to do this despite the EU Water Directives. So too has our own Fenland area, where the old pattern of drainage and water management has survived whilst other areas have fallen prey to modern less effective methods. The Somerset levels were returned to dredging, embankments and pumps after their last catastrophe, showing that the old fenland methods can work.