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Call for task force to fight floods threat

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 31, 2012

stur flooding Clive Davidson.jpg

Flooding around Sturminster Newton (Photo: Clive Davidson)

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A super-agency with more power should be tasked with all aspects of flooding aid and flood prevention a West MP has said.

Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury, made the call as more weekend rain left the UK on the brink of its wettest year since records began in 1910.

Communities across the West have been hit by flooding for the second time in two months, and there are threats of more landslips on the constantly moving Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon. Flood warnings remain in force across the region as heavy overnight rain ushers in a wet start to New Year’s Eve.

Mr Robertson has called for ministers to agree to have one body that would ultimately be responsible for flooding, rather than the current multi-agency approach. He suggested that the Environment Agency could take on the new role if the idea was agreed upon.

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“I certainly think it needs more powers,” he said.

“In terms of house building, OK it’s a statutory consultee but it can’t actually do any more than just say ‘we don’t think this should happen’. I’m not saying that it can be given the power to decide where houses should be built but I think perhaps it does need more teeth in a number of ways.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “It is not for us to comment on what Laurence Robertson said. It is an issue for the Government. At the moment we are focusing our efforts on warning and informing people on the current flooding situation.”

Some people living in flood-hit villages near Tewkesbury, such as Tirley, Chaceley, Ashleworth and Apperley, have accused the Environment Agency of not doing enough to protect their communities. They suspect that flood defences built at other places, such as Deerhurst, might have left them more vulnerable to displaced water.

Yesterday, the agency said it was looking into the matter.

Coastguards continue their warning to walkers and fossil-hunters to stay well clear of cliff tops and undercliffs on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. On Monmouth beach, Lyme Regis, a chalet half way up the cliff has moved and is in danger of tumbling on to other huts beneath. Mudslides and cliff falls have left areas of beach treacherous at Charmouth.

Simon Dennis, of Portland Coastguard, warned: “The current weather means water is draining from land very rapidly. Large sections of our coast are now very vulnerable to movement, and even in dryer weather, any sharp frost would bring expansion behind sections of cliff causing further falls. Areas of mudslide are prone to drying out and forming a crust. Although these may look solid, they will not support a person’s weight.”

At Binegar, near Wells, villagers turned out in force on Saturday when heavy rain brought a flash flood surging down Station Road towards the A37. Frances Rice, 86, whose home was threatened, has been living next door with her her sister-in-law since floods poured into her house last month.

She said: “There’s a culvert up the road that gets blocked and then the water spills into someone’s garden and comes downhill like a river, and I am the end house at the bottom. We did manage to get the sandbags up in place in time yesterday. The fire brigade came and pumped the water away, people were very helpful.” Mrs Rice is still waiting for her house to dry out from last month’s inundation.

Rain should clear eastwards today leaving sunshine but a risk of heavy showers.

Tomorrow should see more sunshine and blustery showers. Wednesday will turn cloudier with patches of rain. Thursday is expected to remain cloudy.

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