Westminster Column - Flooding

21st February 2020

The recent impact of Storm Dennis, and the flooding we have seen particularly around the Teme and Severn, was devastating to see – bringing back memories of the awful flooding suffered in 2007.

More is still forecast for several days, so the clear priority is to ensure people are safe. I commend the work of Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service, the Environment Agency, Shropshire Council and West Mercia Police in getting help to those in need. Floodwater can be incredibly dangerous so please avoid unnecessary travel in flood affected areas and heed the official warnings.

The government quite properly and promptly stepped in on Monday to activate the Bellwin Scheme, which will ensure Shropshire Council are able to take necessary emergency action, regardless of cost to the council. Through this Bellwin Scheme, central government reimburses the cost of local authority actions taken in the immediate phase of an emergency, including action to safeguard life or property or to prevent suffering or severe inconvenience, in its area or among its inhabitants.

We shall clearly need to look again at flood defences in some areas of South Shropshire. Much Wenlock’s attenuation ponds, the result of extensive flooding in 2007 which I opened in 2017, appear to have worked in so far as reducing the extent of flows into the town, helping limit damage to far fewer homes and businesses. 

Flood barriers in Shrewsbury, Ironbridge and Bewdley at the time of writing seem to have protected some of the most vulnerable areas. My immediate reaction to the severe flooding of the Teme in parts of Knighton, Ludlow and much of Tenbury is that once the immediate crisis is over we should assess the impact of these barriers and consider seriously whether similar arrangements should be put in place to protect properties in towns along the Teme and the Severn in Bridgnorth. 

Dredging the rivers has been called for by many, but can only be a temporary solution. I have been impressed by the Slow The Flow work promoted by Shropshire Wildlife Trust, but in the face of such a significant weather event like Storm Dennis, this is not enough.

If you have been affected by the floods, the Environment Agency has specially trained Flood Support Officers across the country who provide information and advice during and after floods. Call Floodline (24-hour service) on 0345 988 1188. If you might need sandbags, call Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9000 or visit https://shropshire.gov.uk/drainage-and-flooding/be-prepared-for-flooding/sandbags .


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