Flooding devastated some UK communities in the wake of Storm Babet. Roads washed away, houses flooded, households lost possessions, and most tragic of all, at least seven lives were lost, writes Dr Neil Hudson MP.
Sadly, Babet is not an isolated event. In 2015, the country faced some of the worst flooding in centuries when Storm Desmond struck. Massive floods left thousands of residents without power and damaged homes and buildings. In 2021 we saw Storm Arwen wreak havoc with extreme winds.
With climate change, extreme weather events and flooding are only set to worsen, and the massive costs to communities and people will continue to be felt.
However, I am pleased to say the Government is acting.
We’re doubling flood resilience funding and already spend record amounts on new and improved infrastructure. This includes a ring fenced £100 million for repeatedly-flooded communities and the vital Flood Re Scheme providing access to insurance to those in need.
But we need to go further. This means not only reducing emissions to limit the increase in extreme weather but also adapting buildings and infrastructure for a warmer, wetter climate.
Local councils must use planning powers to ensure we’re building homes in the right places, utilising more resilient designs and implementing plans to respond in emergencies.
Government can also progress nature-friendly solutions.
We don’t always need concrete to protect us from storms. Rewarding farmers who “rewiggle”’ rivers (adding natural bends), plant trees for flood mitigation, or create wetlands to slow the flow of rainwater, while also sheltering wildlife is an excellent holistic approach.
Sadly though, flooded farmland has its own grim implications for food security, with tragic livestock loss and submerged fields severely impacting farmers and also indirectly affecting consumers at the checkout.
Beyond physical damage, rising waters leave mental scars on communities with residual anxieties resurfacing whenever rain returns.
Heart-wrenching accounts from our Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s recent rural mental health Inquiry, highlighted how we must focus on supporting communities once waters fall and the blue lights leave.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to those who responded to Babet, as I did publicly in this week’s EFRA Committee session.
The Environment Agency, emergency services, volunteer community response groups, healthcare professionals and heroic individuals all must be commended.
As we see the impacts of extreme weather become more widespread across our country and indeed the world, we must ensure that we protect our communities to keep people and businesses safe.
First published by The Daily Express. Dr Neil Hudson MP (Penrith and The Border) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.