Lessons to be learned from weekend flooding

Posted on: 28th November 2012

West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, congratulated emergency services, local authority and the Environment Agency on their response to the challenges posed by excessive heavy rainfall and strong winds over recent days.

However, he is urging both Government and local authorities to reflect on lessons which might be learned from recent events.

Mr George spoke to some locals affected by flooding at Newlyn and also visited the St John’s area of Helston on Sunday  25th November  and spoke to some residents.  Helston was the only location in the country to have been given a “severe flooding risk” status.

Mr George said, “Potentially affected residents in local communities which, like Helston, are issued with the highest level of flooding risk status should be automatically offered the loan of sandbags or other protections until that risk status is downgraded.  I was surprised to find none of the residents in this high risk area were offered sandbags.

“Cornwall Council says that it offers advice, dissemination of Environment Agency warnings and will also provide temporary accommodation.  But that it does ‘not have a statutory duty to provide sandbags’.  And that it will ‘not supply sandbags in advance based on forecasts’.  I think that this policy should be reviewed.

“The local authority recommends that householders ‘look to local suppliers such as builders merchants’ for a supply of sandbags.  But the problem is that, just as with the severe flood warning for Helston at the weekend, these warnings come as the builders merchants close.  They talk of ‘out of hours’ services, but forget to recognise that more than two thirds of all hours in any week are ‘out of hours’.  The chances are that flooding will occur when the Council offices are closed.

“I will urge the local authority to review its policy and consider offering a mobile sandbag loan service when the Environment Agency warning reaches a particular designated level.  The Council comments that it ‘loses’ sandbags when they offer them before an event. Yet there are many households which don’t have any room to store sandbags in what they hope is the unlikely event of them needing them again within the 10 years or so that the sandbag may be useable.  This clearly needs to be looked at.  It’s the old adage – ‘don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar’ – and so with sandbags!”

Mr George will also urge the Government to inject more urgency into its negotiations with the Association of British Insurers with whom it is seeking to resolve an agreed policy for the provision of affordable flood insurance across the country.  Thousands of businesses and homes are worried about finding that their properties are uninsurable.  A “Statement of Principles” (an agreement) is still caught in protracted negotiations between the ABI, Treasury and Defra Ministers.