The Christmas and New Year period is usually a time of joy and happiness but for some in the UK it has been a tragic time because their homes, businesses and local areas have been flooded. The levels of rainfall have been unprecedented with some places flooding for the first time in living memory. The North of England and parts of Scotland have been particularly badly affected but other parts of the Country have been deluged too.
I know everyone in South Derbyshire and the rest of the UK felt for and sympathised with the people who were affected by these exceptional floods. Last week Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Food and Rural Affairs, made a Statement and updated MPs on the situation.
After the Statement I asked the Secretary of State if she would conduct a review of how the Environment Agency (EA) has released and updated information over the very wet period as some of my constituents who live in the 20% of South Derbyshire on flood plains feel that it has not been timely enough. Ms Truss responded saying she, together with EA Chief Executive Sir James Bevan, would look into ways to improve communicating information to the public about river levels.
I believe this will be good news for South Derbyshire residents as the EA, as part of their review of how the present situation was handled, can learn from their mistakes and improve the way they relay information to the at risk locations. Furthermore I welcome Liz Truss’s speech last week where she announced that from April 2016 farmers will be able to maintain their ditches (up to 1.5km), clear debris and manage their land following successful pilots without prior central Government approval – thus cutting red tape and filtering water away naturally. Liz Truss also hinted at up-coming proposals which will give more powers to internal drainage boards and other groups to maintain their local watercourses. These announcements are great news for mostly rural South Derbyshire as it will give our local Farmers the power they need to defend their property and help prevent flooding locally.
South Derbyshire flood defences, on which the Government had spent £6 million, held firm, so Hatton and other surrounding village homes did not flood. The main defences around Ambaston and Shardlow held and only those very low lying locations experienced flooding. These defences have ensured thousands of homes in South Derbyshire which have previously had a problem have been kept safe and dry.
Unfortunately nature sometimes sends us extreme and unexpected weather but I will continue to lobby ministers to ensure we get the protections and defences we need to combat all flood risks the EA identifies for our area.
This piece was originally written for the Burton Mail.