Thursday, 28 January 2016

Flooded

I was asked to write about the recent floods.  Yeah, I thought, easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy - until I sat down at the keyboard. Where on earth to start - this is such a big complex issue.

I could write about the waste of taxpayer money which is the Environment Agency.  “Not fit for purpose” was one of the draft titles of this post.  Ask anyone around here with the remotest connection to land about dredging rivers and then stand back.  Until 20 (or so) years ago when the EA went along with the EU and put a stop to it, farmers were left to manage rivers the way their families had done for generations, gently dredging and keeping channels open and we had very few of the current problems.  Enter the EA who are more interested in spending millions protecting freshwater mussels in Ennerdale than keeping vital river channels clear and since 2009 we have had two “once in a 100 years” floods (assuming you lump 2015 and 2016 together).  No dears, not every 100 years, that is once every six years and people cannot rebuild their lives, homes and businesses that often.  At the Adam Smith Institute I found the simplest and clearest explanation of the dredging problem. You don't have to have a brain the size of Sheldon Cooper to understand this, but clearly someone, somewhere in government who lives miles from the nearest watercourse just doesn't "get it".



I thought about having a rant about United Utilities.  I mean, come on guys - predicting heavy rainfall any time between October and March is not rocket science - it is situation normal in Cumbria so why the hell can’t you take the water level in the Thirlmere reservoir down to it’s summer level and that way control at least some of the water pouring through Keswick, and subsequently screwing things up for Cockermouth.



I could belly-ache for hours about MPs and the lack of political will to do anything.  Our elected members cannot solve the really big problems which matter to them so no-one here will hold their breath expecting Westminster to come up with workable solutions for our future.  To a London-centric government it seems that Cumbria (or rather the Lake District, and our county is so, so much more) is just somewhere pretty you might pop off to for a weekend in the summer.

Politics is a numbers game, and as one of the least densely populated parts of the country (which is to be honest, how we like it, and one of the area’s major attractions), we just don’t have the weight of numbers or rather the quantity of voters.  Carlisle, York, Leeds, Kendal and everywhere else that has been damaged and destroyed have more people = more votes and a louder voice.  But out in the countryside we are, frankly, at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to being helped.  Just this week Glenridding has flooded AGAIN.  That's four times water has poured through homes and businesses since 4th December.  Case closed, M'lord.



I cannot resist a general grumble about the media who buggered off to the next soundbite as soon as the wind turned.  If only the damage and devastation left in the wake of the storms could be cleared up as quickly as a camera crew can pack up their equipment and head off to the nearest coffee shop.  I was in Keswick a few days ago,  six weeks after Storm Desmond, and in front gardens and on roadsides there are still HUGE piles of ruined furniture, skips full of plaster; some places still look like a war zone but that's not on telly.  Neither is Cockermouth which time and time again strives to rebuild but half of our shops on Main Street are closed.  These 'unique, independent businesses' which commentators are so keen to mention are just individuals or families struggling like b*ggery to keep going.  They are not national chains with contingency funds for disasters.

This picture is from The Guardian.  I walked down this road and past this rubbish pile but did not have a camera with me at the time (and always forget that the phone has . . . bla bla bla)



But I do not think I can write usefully about any of those things because I don’t have solid facts, hard evidence and science to back it up, I just live here and that doesn't count when it comes to "the powers that be".  There's a Huffington Post piece which touches upon some of the issues but really just scratches the surface, which is all I am doing, and that's thoroughly depressing.



I thought instead I would write about how it personally affects us.  How it affects us going about our daily lives - how damaged roads restrict our ability to travel, how closed shops take away our consumer choice, how something as apparently distant from me as the loss of Pooley Bridge still brings me to tears every time I think about it (the very first time M. and I came to the Lake District together we stayed just outside the village and had a wonderful holiday not realising then that we were laying the foundations for the life we have now).



But you know, I can't do it, not properly.  Because it just hurts too damn much.  I am rarely lost for words but this time I cannot articulate it properly, I cannot share how I really feel, how much this winter is rocking at our very foundations as our vulnerability and the frailty of life in this part of the world is brought into stark focus.

I am generally a tough bugger whose glass is more than half full with an irritatingly cheerful view on most things, but if I feel this bad then how many other people are quietly, invisibly suffering?

What is the eventual cost of flooding when you throw in depression, time off work, NHS prescriptions?


The law firm, Simpson Millar, have set up a Floodwatch website summarising the flood damage since November last year.  It’s fascinating, sobering, and possibly even under-estimates the true ‘cost’ of the latest floods.  I do hope they continue to maintain it, add 2016 data as it becomes available, and extend its scope where possible.






* I was asked to write this post in order to promote to promote these issues.  I'm happy to do so; the more the scale of this problem is publicised the better. The rants and opinions about everything else are entirely my own.



11 comments:

  1. It is sometimes hard to put things into words, but I agree that the Media have a lot to answe for and get a blast from me time and again. The so called do gooders and politicians who live in big cities have no idea what it can be like living without vital services, good roads etc. Thanks for taking the time write about all this, even though it has given you lots of pain. Take care.

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    1. politicians who live in big cities have no idea what it can be like living without vital services, good roads

      Well said Susan, you've summed it up perfectly.

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  2. Leeds had a proposal for a flood defence programme turned down a few years ago by the London centric government. Another rant subject could be the concreting of what was green belt land, building on flood plains and houses built so closely that there is no space for a garden and what there in is maybe made into a patio. At one time there was a designated green belt between Wakefield and Ossett which prevented urban sprawl. Now the two places that are connected. We are seeing fields disappearing at an incredible rate around us. One development on a green field site sits right next to a piece of derelict land that could have been used. No doubt it would have been far too expensive to clear it. The greenfield site made the more economical option for the developer and it seems that's what counts. Access to the S-state it's on a very dangerous bend but that doesn't seem to have deterred them.

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    1. Well said Sue. The current Planning laws are an absolute joke.

      Permission has been granted, against very strong public opposition, for a huge housing development just outside Cockermouth on land known to flood.
      Apparently that is not grounds for refusal . . .

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  3. What is happening all over the country seems to be a sad sign of the times ,,,, We have had a huge housing development built on the Humber flood plain (again against strong opposition, virtually down to the riverbank with only minimal flood defences and now another huge development has been started between the A63 and the river which consists of tightly packed houses with tiny gardens which is only going to add to the problem. At the moment part of this building site consists of a large (unplanned!)lake after all the rain. My heart goes out to everyone who is affected by the flooding. Unless something is done I can only see it getting worse with more and more people affected.

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  4. Jayne, yes to all of the above. I can't comment more because the rant i'm holding back would just hijack your blog and you've said it so much better than I could. Thank you.

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  5. Kendal and the surrounding area is devastated as well we have a bridge still closed in Staveley two in Burneside Kendals mane Victoria bridge it's a bloody nightmare trying to go anywhere the south of the county has been badly hit as well Jayne

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  6. I so agree Jayne, the pain and aftermath of the flooding lasts oh so much longer than the news cameras would have us believe.... there are months and months of despair still to come.....

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  7. I love Glenridding and Pooley Bridge and I'm with you - I live in West Yorkshire which was also badly affected. Thanks for writing.

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  8. To Jill, Curvy, Hawthorn, Ann, Driftwood and Rebecca.

    Thank you so much for your comments, and I agree with you all :-} So many areas still very badly affected but the media have run away and so many communities feel forgotten.

    Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, but been having a bit of a digital detox and have hardly touched the Mac for the last couple of weeks.

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So there I am, chuntering on to myself, but it would be lovely to hear from you. Thanks to all who take the time to comment - it makes my day :)

and I always delete spam - my blog, my rules :-}