Yes, it’s Cumbria, we’re used to rain, but there are limits. So with the flooding, what’s happened?
Well of course, if you want anything done, send in the army (and the other emergency services.)
I saw one digger driver interviewed. Sick of being made to sit in their diggers because it was too dangerous, they waited for petty officialdom to knock off for the day before starting up the diggers and getting the job done.
I was talking to one chap who crept along flooded roads, and across the bridge, only to find his way off the bridge blocked by a local government employee engaged in closing the bridge, because the bridge was unsafe. Because the road was already ‘blocked’ the jobsworth wouldn’t open it up to let him through, instead he forced him to reverse back across the bridge that was so unsafe they were closing the road, and take his chance once more with the flooding on the other side.
It doesn’t matter how bad things get, there are folk whose presence you know will somehow ensure things get worse.
Yet as usual in Cumbria, folk rallied round and got stuck in. What decent folk could do to help their neighbours, decent folk did. And other decent folk came up to help from all over the place, people of all creeds and backgrounds and from all sorts of different places and it was good to have them.
But what are we going to do about it?
Let’s be brutally frank about it. A lot of building has been done in areas that were prone to flooding. Because of this building, the rivers have been more hemmed in, and thus they’re more prone to flooding that people notice. They always did flood, but the land owner knew to move cattle out of the field in wet weather, the hint is in the term ‘flood plain.’ The climate is changing (this isn’t an ideological point; the climate is always changing, always has changed and always will changed. It’s entirely possible that in the natural cycle of these things, in half a millennia Cumbria will get a lot drier again, but let’s worry about our life times.)
So what are we going to do? Well at the moment a lot of houses are only insured because government did a deal with insurance companies so that the rest of us cross-subsidise them. Getting insurance for commercial building could be more tricky.
Now there’s talk of using land upstream for sacrifice flooding. Firstly I’ve heard talk but seen no really convincing plans which show exactly how it’ll work. There’s talk of planting more trees to reduce run-off. There might be enthusiasm for planting more trees along the side of Thirlmere to stop the fellside sliding into the road as well. But this is all National Park; best of luck in getting anything done quickly. It’s difficult enough to get permission to dredge rivers properly in Cumbria, doing that would probably be a good start.
So let’s be sensible. Rather that trying to shift the blame and the cost upstream onto those who haven’t made a penny out of rates and rents on buildings erected on the flood plain, how about being sensible. Any non-residential area that has flooded in the last two floods, just demolish it, get rid of the concrete, turn it back to grass. Plant it was willow if you want, make it a park, but let it flood. See what happens. Does that reduce the flooding into housing? If it does, great, but if, with this done and the rivers cleaned out properly, we have housing estates that are still flooding, then I think we’re going to have to look at compensating the owners, demolishing them and rebuilding somewhere more sensible.
When we have events that aren’t supposed to happen twice in several centuries happening twice in a decade, it’s probably time to stop fannying about.