Is it possible to prevent flooding

Do high risk areas simply have to accept the fact that despite best efforts to prevent it, they have no defence against flooding in extreme weather incidents.

We examine the measures being taken to protect against flooding.

The latest wave of flooding to hit Cumbria has caused damage estimated at over half a billion pounds.

Government representatives have been quick to point out that with a record breaking 14 inches of rain having fallen in the Lake District in just 24 hours, there was nothing that could have prevented Storm Desmond from wreaking the havoc it did.

However, the Government have also been busy claiming credit for major flood defence works being built in the area over the last year. So what actually were those flood defences and couldn’t more have been done to protect the homes and businesses of the people of Cumbria?

It is not an easy question to answer. The defences that the Environment Agency put in were of a number of different types and assessing one against the other is not easy to do.

The most obviously visible defences have been physical barriers, designed to stop rivers overflowing. Two major types (frame and wall) are in use by the Environment Agency in the Lake District. Frame barriers are generally used as temporary defences, easy to set up and easy to remove once the danger has passed. As much of Cumbria is national park, permanent barriers must be sensitive to their environment. Innovative solutions include walls made of glass being placed on top of traditional stone walling in Keswick to hold back the River Greta in a recent flood defence project that cost £61million.

In addition there have been bespoke solutions such as the passive self actuating barriers installed in Cockermouth in 2013. These are walls that ’float’ up into position as river levels rise.

However, alongside the high-tech, high cost systems, there are plenty of examples of more basic flood defences being built. A tree planting programme has seen the addition of thousands of saplings in the land around the Derwent and Greta rivers. This should slow the rain down as it hits the canopy so the land beneath is less compacted and thus able to absorb more rain. The roots of the trees also help hold the soil together, thus further preventing erosion.

Encouraging natural run-off by digging ditches is a low-tech flood relief method that has a long history in the Lakes and over the last year there has been a lot of digging going on.

The other major task has been to dredge rivers and channels to ensure there is enough physical space for the excess water to be diverted safely in to and this is one area where some locals are arguing that the official response has been woefully negligent. What, they have asked, is the point of adding glass panels to the sides of the Greta when the riverbed itself has been silting up for more than a decade with no dredging going on?

The response last year from Lord Smith, Chair of the Environment Agency was that dredging “… is not the comprehensive answer that some people have been claiming.”

All well and good, but ultimately the reason we allow government agencies to spend millions of taxpayers money is to keep homes homes from being deluged. However this has not happened, and spectacularly so. The Cumbrians are left with with ruined homes, structural repair bills, damp homes and the additional stress of dealing with insurance claims.

Tangible Building can help by removing the stress from making a claim, dealing with the insurers and their representatives on behalf of the homeowners. We then carry out repairs using our network of building professionals.

If your home or property is unlucky enough to have suffered flood damage as a result of extreme weather conditions and you need to make a claim, call Tangible Building today. We’ll visit your property to carry out a professional assessment of damage and ensure a speedy claims and repairs process to reinstate your home.

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Thames Valley

Suite 220, SK House, Vansittart Estate, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1SE.


Suite 220, SK House, Vansittart Estate, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1SE.

Jane Smith

Regional Director at Thames Valley Office

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