UK & World News

  • 3 February 2014, 10:06

Flood Chief: Tricky Decisions Must Be Made

A decision must be made on whether to protect town or country from flooding, the chairman of the Environment Agency has warned as further wind and rain threatens to bring more misery.

Writing in the Telegraph, Lord Smith of Finsbury said the agency could not afford to protect both and "difficult decisions" would have to be made about where to "prioritise spending".

He wrote: "Government lays down clear rules and the principle is that central government, through the Environment Agency, funds national benefits, and local people fund local benefits.

"Yes, agricultural land matters and we do whatever we can with what we have to make sure it is protected.

"Rules from successive governments give the highest priority to lives and homes; and I think most people would agree that this is the right approach.

"But this involves tricky issues of policy and priority: town or country, front rooms or farmland?

"Flood defences cost money; and how much should the taxpayer be prepared to spend on different places, communities and livelihoods - in Somerset, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, or East Anglia?

"There's no bottomless purse, and we need to make difficult but sensible choices about where and what we try to protect."

Lord Smith said more than one million homes have been defended across country, over the past couple of months - in the face of "everything that nature could throw at us".

"I'm proud of what the Environment Agency and its staff have done," he added.

Meanwhile, waterlogged communities in the south of England have been told to brace themselves for the possibility of further flooding.

Officials say fresh flooding could affect the south coasts of Devon and Cornwall today as well as Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The River Severn in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, the Frome and Avon in Dorset, the River Thames and its tributaries in Oxfordshire, West Berkshire, Reading, Slough and Hampshire and the Medway in Kent are all of concern this week.

Since early December, the UK has been hit by "extraordinary" weather and flooding.

Those bearing the brunt of the storms have been in the south, where villagers in Somerset are bracing themselves for a sixth consecutive week of flooding.

The Environment Agency's flood risk manager warned that as high tides and large waves threaten the south coast, further rain on already saturated ground could lead to river flooding.

Kate Marks said: "With further severe weather conditions expected in the coming days, the Environment Agency is likely to issue further warnings so people should check their flood risk and get early warnings so they can take action to protect their property."

Over the weekend, almost 200 homes were flooded up and down the country.

In the south of England, 1.5 million tons of water a day were pumped off the Somerset Levels.

In Wales, more than 50 mountain rescuers had to battle atrocious weather conditions during a a daring eight-hour rescue in the Cambrian Mountains.

And in Scotland, coastguards braved rough seas on the Aberdeenshire coast in the hunt for a missing angler in the early hours of Sunday morning.

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