Time to put up the cash

Chris Smith and the PM must get their act together on flooding

HOPEFULLY, by the time you read this, the flood waters that have devastated so much of our area for so long will at last have begun to subside, leaving thousands of people to begin the long task of salvaging what they can from their homes and businesses.

In my 63 years on this planet I’ve never experienced anything on the scale of this inundation and I can only send heartfelt good wishes to all those affected.

For a time, my wife and I were getting worried that we too might be flooded as the River Ash, which runs close to our home in Ashford, backed up alarmingly. We were fortunate – the flood didn’t reach us – but how we would have coped had the water come rushing into our home, I have no idea.

The thought of having to deal with the damage, the stench of raw sewage in our living room and the prospect of long months trying to get things back to their original state is incredibly depressing. How much worse for those having to deal with the reality?

I feel, too, for those whose businesses have been badly affected by the flooding.

My good friend Jenny Beagle who runs the Bridge Marine boatyard in Shepperton right by Walton Bridge, has seen the Thames occupy her yard and her workshop and threaten to sweep away some of the dozens of boats stored on her premises. She faces a long uphill battle to restore her business.

And all those other Thames side operations that have been similarly affected – pubs like the Anglers at Walton, The Weir at Sunbury, the Thames Court at Shepperton and many others will all face a struggle to rebuild their livelihoods.

Other boat-related businesses will face a similar tough task.

Mike Dennett and his crew who specialise in the restoration of classic wooden boats at Laleham Reach, Harris Boatbuilders along the same stretch of the river, Tims Boatyard in Staines and both Penton Hook and Shepperton Marinas; the sea cadets at Sunbury the list is heartbreaking.

And while all these people try to get their lives back, the prospect of further future flooding looms in the background like an ominous dark rain cloud.

I don’t know whether this torrential rain has been caused as an indirect result of global warming or simply cyclical changes in our weather patterns but one thing is certain – there is no reason to expect that it won’t happen again.

So perhaps now is the time for the Government and the Environment Agency to re-think the whole issue of effective funding for flood protection.

Much criticism has been directed at Lord Chris Smith, the chairman of the EA, over his agency’s inability to do more to protect those living close to the Thames. He has responded by arguing that the EA did all it could be expected to do given its lack of resources caused by cutbacks in its funding as a result of the Government’s austerity measures.

I agree that the agency’s workers have been magnificent, toiling all hours to try to relieve the suffering of hundreds of people hit by the floods. But Lord Smith now has to take the responsibility to go back to Government and argue in the strongest possible terms for a budget that will allow the EA to provide the kind of protection that we deserve.

It’s time for all those politicians who donned waders and rushed out to face the cameras to grab the limelight while hundreds suffered to stop talking and put our tax money where their mouths are and give the EA the tools it needs to do the job.

Our beloved Prime Minister went on record as saying that whatever was needed would be made available.

Okay, Dave, prove it… How about diverting some of that £42billion set aside for HS2 to protecting your citizens from flooding?

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