Sunday, 8 June 2008

David Cameron debates Flooding

On 7th May this year Rt Hon David Cameron MP bought Flooding in West Oxfordshire to a parliamentary debate in the House of Commons.
To read the full report from Hansard
Click Here
A few extracts from his speech:
"... there are times when a particular issue dominates a particular constituency. That is true of west Oxfordshire, my constituency and the floods of last July – not only the problems and clear-up that took place, but the fear that flooding could happen again. In fact ...... it has already happened again ...... I must say to the Minister that every time that there is hard, big rainfall in west Oxfordshire, the fear starts all over again that rivers will burst their banks, that there will be flooding, and that businesses will be hit again. There is large-scale concern about that."

"I shall never forget seeing the biblical scenes of the scale of floods: cars and houses were completely overwhelmed, and in Bablock Hythe, for example, mobile homes floated away. The council distributed 40,000 sandbags and helped enormously with the emergency response and community support. That is the first lesson that I for one learned from the floods: when it came to working with local businesses, organising volunteers and deploying the local knowledge, West Oxfordshire District Council, which is one of the smallest district councils in the country did an extremely good job ....... The fact that it is a small council actually helped, because it was in touch on the ground: it knew the networks and the volunteers and how to get the RAF to help. The council knew its area incredibly well."
"People understand that flash floods are particularly difficult to protect against, but people in my constituency want to know that everything that can be done will be done to reduce the impact of such floods in future. They are not satisfied that everything is being done. There is a general perception that everybody is talking a good game about flood defences and what we need to do for the future, but people fear that not much is actually happening."
"... On the Environment Agency, when one talks to people who have been flooded, one question keeps coming up again and again: why has so little been done to clear out the ditches, dykes and culverts, and why is there so little dredging of rivers and streams compared with the past? I am not a scientist and I am happy to listen to the arguments, but I am not convinced that they are all old wives' tales. There is truth in them, and such activities can make a difference."
"That brings me to my concern about the agency, which arises from dozens of meeting with homeowners, farmers, councillors and those living in affected communities ...... the agency gives too great a weight to animal habitat and not enough to human habitat."

"On some occasions, the Environment Agency has been responsible for clearing; on others, it has not given permission for the necessary clearance. There are too many examples of people saying, “I cannot clear out this ditch, because I've been told that I would be disturbing important habitat.” Of course habitat is important, but in the end, we must try to protect households from flooding."
"My biggest concern is the potential disadvantage at which rural communities are being placed."
"Farmers are another concern in rural areas. A number of farmers who have been flooded again and again have come to see me. They are worried about water being left on the land for such long periods, which is bad for habitat."
"I hope the Minister can give us some answers about the work of the Environment Agency, how we might focus better on flood prevention and what work needs to be carried out locally. Above all, I hope that he can examine the issue of how to help small, sparsely populated rural communities. They have suffered badly, they have shown extraordinary courage and bravery in dealing with it and they want to know that the Government is on their side."

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