The day that the rains came

Morpeth Saturday

Morpeth Saturday

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WITH news of cuts in flood defence funding and the deferment of the proposed £1.7million Morpeth flood alleviation scheme, the Association of British Insurers has written of the issues facing the town.

ON Saturday, September 6, 2008, the rain poured for 24 hours and the banks of the River Wansbeck burst. The streets of Morpeth were flooded.

The trauma of the 2008 floods that devastated the area is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Damage was caused to almost 1,000 properties, most of which were residential.

The reality of living in a high flood risk area is a daunting one for all of Morpeth’s residents, but flooding leads to more than just damaged properties. Floods wreck lives, disrupt businesses and devastate communities.

In March 10,000 people took part in Exercise Watermark, Britain’s biggest ever civil emergency exercise which tested the country’s response to catastrophic floods. But what will happen when the next flood strikes for real?

Reduced future Government spending on flood defences is bound to have an impact. The Government’s vision for a long term strategy will now have a focus on ‘localism’ — a shift to local partnerships developing local solutions for local flood risks. What will this actually mean for the communities at risk in the country?

And what does this mean for Morpeth’s residents and businesses if they are expected to get involved in managing the flood risk themselves and make it work in practice? What does this mean for communities and schools? And, crucially, how will the much needed flood improvements be funded?

As the Government has reduced its spending on flood defences it is vital that the money available is going to be well targeted to those areas most at risk and that it is used efficiently to ensure the maximum benefit for flood-vulnerable communities. This is now a crucial time for flood protection in Morpeth and these questions need answers.

Throughout Morpeth homeowners and businesses rely on flood insurance to protect them if disaster strikes. Insurers, under an industry agreement, offer flood cover to existing customers providing there are adequate flood defences planned or in place.

But this agreement ends in 2013. When it does end, we hope that those at risk of flooding will still be able to insure their properties and businesses. But the Government and the public need to take responsibility for managing their flood risk too.

Insurers are determined to do all they can to ensure that flood insurance continues to remain widely available throughout Morpeth. The average cost of damage caused by flooding to a home can range from £20,000 to £40,000, so this protection is very much needed.

The shift towards ‘localism’ means that the responsibilities of the Government for meeting the challenge of putting an effective strategic plan in place have changed. However, they have not disappeared. The Government must begin to communicate its intentions for its long term ‘vision’ to the communities who need it most.

The harsh reality that we all must face is that flooding is not going to go away. Flood risk and flash floods are predicted to get worse.

And if the Government is going to give some responsibility to communities in Morpeth for flood management, it must provide more details to help them. The Government must offer direction, help and support now so that people in Morpeth can prepare themselves before the next flood hits.