Happy new year to the readers of this column and hope you have an enjoyable next few months.
Anyway onto a topical discussion given the problems York had in the Christmas period. I’d first like to pay tribute to all of those from the emergency services who helped get people to safety and with the later clean up, as well as the volunteers that helped as well. It’s good to see that York has a strong community spirit in times of natural disaster.
Now the main question – how do we stop this from happening again? Or rather, why weren’t the appropriate measures in place to stop this from happening? There are many politicians that use the old cop-out of “climate change” in order to remove responsibility from the government. It was not climate change which failed to invest in adequate flood defences, nor was it climate change that put unnecessary legislation into place meaning rivers couldn’t be dredged. It wasn’t climate change that built 200,000 houses on floodplains from 2001 to 2011. I think you can see what I’m getting at here, Climate Change policy is an irrelevance to this debate whether you support renewable energy or not, as investing in wind farms and solar panels (or any other UK policy attempting to prevent climate change) would not have stopped these floods.
Now, I know it is stereotypical of someone in my party to talk about the problems with the EU in relation to any problem that this country faces. For the record this is, I believe, the second time I’ve mentioned it in any context in this column, and certainly the first critique I’ve done of its policy. In this case the EU holds some responsibility for the inadequate flood preparation. The EU waterway directive of 2000 , demands that rivers are kept as close to their natural state as possible, meaning that rivers that should have been dredged were not, as dredging is in violation of the directive. It’s all very well saying that articles 30 and 31 allow for dredging after the fact , but that’s hardly going to save the property and undo the millions of pounds worth of damage the floods have already caused. The UK had the same problems last year on Salisbury plain, where rivers that had been dredged since the medieval period were prevented from being dredged by this directive. It’s all very well to talk about preserving the environment and indeed such preservation should be encouraged, but refusing to dredge rivers that historically have been proven to require dredging defies all logic.
The next thing is why do we always encourage development of floodplains? 200,000 homes were built on floodplains over 2001-2011, we can hardly act surprised that houses flood when we have developed areas which originally have been the rivers’ natural stoppers. I understand that given our rising population we need to build housing, but there are plenty of brownfield sites around the country which could be developed. We should support the development of such sites by reducing the taxes on such developments, in fact this is UKIP policy, endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered surveyors in 2015. Further suggestions include creating a brownfield map with a view to building 1 million houses on brownfield sites over the next 10 years.
It is also worth noting that the government could have easily invested in flood defences for the North of England, instead of vanity projects such as HS2. Instead they cut the funding to the Environment Agency and thereby failed to prioritise spending appropriately. Not building flood defences in favour of building a railway in an area that is already well invested in? For all their talk about economic responsibility, it is clear the Tories haven’t been as conservative as their name and rhetoric would suggest.
In short, let’s stop letting the government distract us using global phenomena, regardless of where you stand on Climate Change, and focus on the issues that might solve the problem of flooding. The solutions are out there; the government merely needs to implement them.
This article was amended at 15:36 GMT on 15/01/2016 to re-insert a sentence that had been taken out during the editing process, which changed the content of the fourth paragraph.