• Floods

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    15 January 2016

    We have been experiencing some unusual weather lately. An exceptionally warm Christmas and New Year has been accompanied by some extraordinary rainfall. Devon has had plenty too of course but the worst of it has been in and around Yorkshire, Cumbria and in Scotland. Several inches of rain falling in a matter of hours accompanied by 80 mile an hour winds have caused devastation to some communities.

    One of my most distressing times as an MP was in 2012 when I visited flooded communities in Buckfastleigh - where I took the Prime Minister with me and Kennford, where I brought the DEFRA Secretary of State to witness the appalling effects of water wrecking homes. I recall these moments as deeply personal events. To see someone’s possessions including photographs from a mantelpiece washed up upon a mud-soaked floor is a deeply distressing and moving experience. One lady I visited told me how she had been in bed in the early hours when she was awoken by neighbours and on descending the stairs in the dark felt the cool clasp of water about her ankles. It is always a difficult call to know how permanent the shift in the weather will be – estimating the way the climate might change in the shorter term is a tricky business but it appears likely that over the next several decades, at least, there may be more of this in store for us. After the experiences in our own constituency in 2012 I set out on a crusade to see greater and more appropriately targeted investment in flood defences along with a solution for those home owners living in high flood risk areas who find it hard to secure property insurance (either entirely or at a reasonable cost and with a sensible excess to the policy). The Coalition government of the day responded with a greater level of flood defence investment than the previous administration and a couple of years after the devastation that visited Kennford I was pleased to inspect the completed flood defence work for the village. I spent time also viewing the works carried out around Stoke Cannon in the Exe Valley – work that is now complete and providing vital protection to that vulnerable community as well. I have continued to lobby on flood defences and the current government has committed to a greater level of investment in this area than even the Coalition government committed. £3.2 billion is being invested over the lifetime of this parliament with 1,400 new schemes in the current programme improving protection for 465,000 homes and businesses. I know that will be scant immediate comfort to those who have suffered so badly this time but it takes a while to build defences and knowing where devastation might visit is difficult to assess. Key now is to keep up with our record investment to ensure that we provide the very best protection.