Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Flooding in the West Country... "to become normal"... but questions asked over preparations...

Following the serious flooding in February:
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and climate change
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and development
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and coastal communities
Futures Forum: Flooding in the West Country... and dredging rivers

... there were questions asked about the political fallout:
Futures Forum: Somerset on Countryfile ... ... "Floods, Politics and Science: The Case of the Somerset Levels"

The East Devon Alliance blog has drawn attention to the latest stories on where we are with 'how to deal with flooding' - and how further questions are being asked:
“Flood schemes a disaster for South West Communities | East Devon Alliance

The Met Office has issued several warnings about long-term flooding.
Here are reports from today's Express & Echo:
Met Office warning over future flash flooding in the UK | Exeter Express and Echo
Boscastle-style floods could become more frequent in Devon and Cornwall according to a new Met Office study | Western Morning News
Flash floods may become the norm in North Devon, new report finds | North Devon Journal

This is from yesterday's edition:

Floods to become normal for South West in future as the Met Office admit they underestimated climate change

By Western Daily Press | Posted: June 02, 2014

Floods to become normal for South West in future as the Met Office admit they underestimated climate change

Residents living in southern England should be prepared for more Boscastle style flash floodings by the end of the century warn the Met Office.

Over the next 85 years the warmer climate will lead to more torrential downpours, causing rivers to burst their banks and homes to flood.

The warning came after the Exeter-based forecasters changed their models from 20km square areas to 1.5km squared and found the impact of climate change had been underestimated.

The number of flash storms will rise to 117 by 2100, the Met Office said in a study published in the journal Nature: Climate Change.

Southern England sees around 24 flash storms each summer, when 28mm or more of rain falls per hour.

Residents should also be on their guard for more "localised exteme events", such as the Boscastle flood in August 2004 when torrential rain fell over an eight hour period and the river rose by two metres in an hour.

Elizabeth Kendon, of the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, said: “The 1.5 km model shows a future intensification of short-duration rain in summer, with significantly more events exceeding the high thresholds indicative of serious flash flooding. This implies that previous interpretations of future regional climate change scenarios should be revisited, as changes in rain events could have been underestimated.”

This new forecast is that more events would exceed the Met Office and Environment Agency Flood Forecasting Centre guidance threshold for serious flash flooding.

The upside is that heatwave summers will also be the norm in Britain by the 2040, with half recording average temperatures higher than in record breaking 2003.

Some parts of the country have already had the wettest May for up to 47 years and the people of the Somerset Levels know all about the increased risk of flooding.
Floods to become normal for South West in future as the Met Office admit they underestimated climate change | Western Daily Press

Meanwhile, measures to deal with flooding have not exactly been met with a resounding endorsement, including from Cllr Stuart Hughes, County Council cabinet member for flood prevention:

Flood scheme "a disaster" for South West communities

By Western Morning News | Posted: June 02, 2014

The flooded Somerset Levels

A flagship Government policy to get more flood defences built is relying on cash-strapped councils for cash and failing to increase protection for the poorest areas.

Labour has seized on an independent report suggesting flaws in the coalition’s plan to encourage investment in defences from sources beyond central Government.

The “partnership” model, backed publicly by David Cameron, was designed to get schemes built to protect homes and businesses that would otherwise be waiting for years.

Instead of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs providing 100% of the cash, businesses and councils have been asked to stump up – the incentive being they would benefit from the added protection.

But an interim report produced by JBA Consulting states three-quarters of the additional money is coming from councils, and indicates cuts to their funding may impact the programme in the future.

It also says there is no evidence to suggest deprived areas have witnessed an increase in flood protection than under the previous regime. Before the scheme was launched in 2011 critics feared only wealthy areas would be able to find the additional funding.

Partnership in the Westcountry include the huge £30 million Exeter flood defence scheme that has been funded partly by £3 million each from the city council and Devon County Council, the £3 million reconstruction of the 50-year-old Lighterage Quay in Truro that has had £750,000 from Cornwall Council, and the £3 million Redruth “brewery quarter” defences that received £2.6 million from “external sources”.

Shadow Environment Secretary Maria Eagle said the policy has been a “disaster for communities” but Defra claimed the report underlined how more money was flowing into the system.

Ministers have been criticised for cutting flood defence spending, and subsequently increased their commitment following a series of winter storms.

But Labour has dismissed the coalition’s claim it is increasing spending over the life of the Parliament, arguing it represents a fall after inflation.

Storms that hit the South West this year also raised questions over whether money is available to protect sparsely-populated rural areas.

Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith admitted rivers serving the Somerset Levels were not dredged a year before the deluge as it did not meet the Government’s value-for-money criteria.

Ms Eagle said: “The recent floods were a tragedy for many local communities in South West having felt the full brunt of the Government’s ill-conceived decision to cut flood defence funding in 2010. As a result the Government has attempted to plug this funding gap through its partnership funding programme, which uses other sources of funding to supplement money from government. However recent evidence from the Department suggests that this programme has been a disaster for communities.

“Having failed to attract enough investment from private sources the Government has been forced to rely on cash-strapped councils, piling more pressure on struggling local authorities. On top on this there is no evidence that Government’s programme is targeting resources towards our most deprived communities, who are disproportionately affected by high levels of flood risk.”

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for flood prevention, said the council has not been successful in securing funding through the “partnership” model.

He said: “We have submitted further bids for more than £2.5 million to be considered for the next six year programme. We reported to Defra during the consultation process that there is a difficulty in obtaining funding for rural communities where there are low numbers of properties and little opportunity for large-scale contributions. This is a real issue for Devon which we feel needs to be addressed.”

The report indicates that 75% of funding is coming from councils. It adds “there is no clear evidence” the model has led to a “shift in resources towards deprived communities than was previously the case”.

Defra defended the partnership model, saying in four years 8,700 householders in the 20% most deprived areas had been protected and that 25% more schemes have gone ahead.

A spokesman said: “By changing the way we fund flood defences we have been able to protect more people and properties than ever before. Investing in flood defences is a good investment for local authorities – the benefits far outweigh the costs.”

Flood scheme "a disaster" for South West communities says Maria Eagle | Western Morning News

Meanwhile, South West Water is continuing its strong performance:
South West Water sees profits soar | Exeter Express and Echo

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