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Rural flooding hits North East

Last weekend’s floods in England and Wales underlined the need for better management of run-off from agricultural and rural land, flooding and drainage experts claimed this week.

England's northeast was the most seriously affected but flash floods also hit parts of Wales, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said that while the weather forecast was still in flux, initial estimates suggested damage valued at around the "low tens of millions (of pounds) at this stage."

At the time of writing, the Environment Agency website still had 20 flood warnings in place as well as 40 flood watches.

The weekend's extreme weather caused the deaths of eight people including a 27-year old engineering geologist onsite in Gloucestershire. Alex Wright was killed when the trench he was working in filled with waterlogged earth from a landslide.

Hyder director of water environment Bob Sargent told NCE that to avoid such tragedies in rural areas, steps needed to be taken to reduce the run-off from agricultural land.

"We’re not managing river catchments as a whole,” he said. “Last year’s flooding highlighted the deficiencies in urban drainage and flooding in built up areas," Sargent.

"The events of the last week draw into sharp focus the fact that we don’t manage river catchments as a whole and rural areas are not sufficiently integrated into flood management plans."

The area worst hit by last weekend’s floods was Morpeth in Northumberland, cut-off by some of the worst flooding seen in the region in over 40 years.

Hundreds of residents were rescued by boat and helicopter.
Association of Drainage Authorities chief executive and ICE senior vice president Jean Venables agreed with Sargent’s call for a more holistic approach.

"Interrelation between the urban and rural parts of a river catchment area is crucial," she said.

"We need to look at river catchment areas as a whole."

The lack of implementation of flood risk management strategy was also identified as a problem by Sargent, who blamed institutional inertia.

"There is still a very fragmented approach to flood risk strategy," he said.

"This is proving to be a real barrier to managing catchment areas in a holistic way."

Venables meanwhile criticised the time lag between the devising of strategies and their implementation.
"The Pitt Review outlined 92 recommendations that are still to be implemented," said Venables.

"We need to strike a better balance between planning and delivery."
Middlesex University Flood Hazard Research Centre professor of water economics Colin Green warned that there could be much worse flooding to come.

"Last summer’s flooding was essentially down to a winter-type depression that that sat over the country releasing vast amounts of water," said Green.

"It’s not hard to envisage a 'perfect storm scenario' where a similar depression could hang over the nexus of the Severn, Thames and Avon."

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