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.