UK Coastal Defences & Flood Defences – in your Dreams!

Ally Hunter Blair of Weir End Farm in Herefordshire has 60ha underwater of which 40ha is arable and 20ha of permanent pasture

Ally Hunter Blair of Weir End Farm in Herefordshire has 60ha underwater of which 40ha is arable and 20ha of permanent pasture

Flooded_houses,_Chertsey_(geograph_3812479)The flooding has stopped for now, and the water will gradually recede from the devastated areas. Land will recover eventually and property will be dried out, buildings will be repaired, and millions of pounds in insurance will be paid out. Sorted then?

Certainly not! People have died, individuals have been injured, lives have been destroyed, families devastated, incomes truncated, businesses lost, jobs destroyed, communities trashed, possessions destroyed, homelessness resulted, and thousands faced with financial ruin. It was all just bad luck then? It was simply down to nature was it? It was an act of god surely? It couldn’t have been predicted could it? There was no way of avoiding it anyway? It certainly wasn’t preventable of course? Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Is this the first time we have suffered from floods in the UK? Not by a long chalk! Going back to the eighteen hundreds there was the Sheffield flood killing 270 souls – the highest flood loss of life here (down to a failed dam construction). There was a disastrous flood of the Thames in 1928 – the last time central London was flooded. In 1947 another devastating Thames flood following a most severe winter and high rainfall (significant Thames floods followed in 1968, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006). Some sixty years ago we had Devon’s Lynmouth flood (primarily caused by a storm) , and then the Thames’ Canvey island North Sea flood. North of the border we had the Glasgow thunderstorm flash floods at the start of the century. Then extensive intense rainfall in Cornwall caused extreme village flash floods, followed in 2005 by the Cumbrian rivers flooding in NW England, following massive storms. These are only a few most unforgettable events invoking sometimes significant loss of life, massive evacuations, colossal damage and grand trauma.

Extensive and destructive floods badly hit the UK in 2007 (due to high rainfall) hammering some and flooding others in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, County Durham, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, London, Northern Ireland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, South Wales, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Wiltshire, Worcestershire , and Yorkshire the worst.

Two years later another weather event (heavy torrential downpours and high winds) gave one of the greatest rainfalls experienced in the UK, including the wettest month ever recorded; this resulted in calamitous flooding particularly in Cumbria and Scotland, but also around the country – Devon, Cornwall, Exeter, Plymouth, for example.

Last year saw the tidal surge of 2013 which caused the Newcastle Tyne to overflow, floods in Whitby, around the Humber estuary, and coastal flooding in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Lowestoft.

Our recent winter floods 2013/14 emanated from a series of major storms, bringing heavy rainfall in southern England and in particular Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset. Huge areas of agricultural land have been swamped and serious coastal damage caused. This culminated in persistent long-term flooding on the Somerset levels and recurrent flooding in Dorset, Hampshire, Kent, Surry, Sussex, and Thames Valley. Rural properties, then village, town, and city houses have been invaded by torrents of water and sewage.

Did we not know these ‘floodings’ were coming? Oh yes, we certainly did. Red flood warnings galore. But it was too late you see – we hadn’t invested in any appropriate defences! So it is this current bloody coalition Government and their stringent and oppressive austerity plans to blame? Wrong (but true they played a bit-part). OK, it is then the incompetent uncaring Environment Agency to blame? Wrong again (advice ignored and strapped for cash by all). Well, it is the Local Authorities to blame? Wrong (another bit-part player only)’

So who has to carry the can? Successive UK governments, both Conservative & Labour, who for decade after decade have ignored the risks from water (over 15% of properties are at risk of flooding!), and have refused time & time again to give any priority to protecting our lands, our homes, or our people. Why not? Good question. No Answer.

Following previous tragedies some limited action was taken; Canvey is protected by modern sea defences including a fifteen mile concrete seawall; the Thames barrier was built in the 1970s to protect London (proposals in 2005 & 2011 for a better Thames barriers didn’t get off the ground though), and the Humber Estuary defences (subsequently fell into a poor state requiring a half a billion pounds upgrade).

Things here could have been oh so different though couldn’t it?

Some 60 years ago Holland also suffered a major North Sea flood killing nearly 2000 of their peoples – they vowed to never let it happen again! They have invested heavily in sea and flooding defences (extensive dam systems & storm surge barriers) – these are designed to withstand any event in a thousand years. They currently spend double each year in simply maintaining their defences than the UK spends in attempting to create a few defences. The Dutch don’t stop there – no, they manage water including rainfall and ensure the design of buildings and all infrastructure is water conscious. The Dutch population are knowledgeable & care about flooding – compared to the English who are ignorant and kept in the dark!
[Oh yes, and they were also able to let us in the UK have the pumps we are using to clear our latest floodwaters!].

What do we do in UK? The Government spends a pittance on both coastal and flood defences (less than £¾ billion a year). When floods hit us the Government boasts about issuing householders with cheap sandbags – good in the blitz but completely useless in defence against water, even if placed by Prince William himself, and afterwards they present a big health hazard! Councils allow inappropriate building on flood plains and rake in all taxes they can, while ignoring the inevitable doomsday looming. We pay lip service to the need for us and the rest of the World to desist from causing climate change (extraordinary ice losses from some 20 locations including the poles – removing the protective mirror effect and sadly increasing sea levels). Our politicians have, without public approval or knowledge, decided to abandon parts of our coastline and major tracks of our country to let the sea and water reclaim it – our descendents will not be living in large parts of East Anglia for example and a lot of farmland will be left to water seeking wildlife and not to provide food for our people – places like Portsmouth will be gone.

The recent floods will probably cost one to two billion pounds to clear-up. What superior, stronger defences would that kind of extra money have provided eh? If Local Authorities were required by law to pay for flood damage and repair of coastal erosion, we would soon see a bit of realistic spend on protecting our Country, and greater government financial commitment at last wouldn’t we?


[A sea level rise of only a few meters would inundate hundreds of square kilometres of highly populated and developed land. – communities, highways, factories, ports, railroads and many types of industry would be flooded. Well done all of us in letting our Oxbridge educated, upper class elite, grasping, public service ignorant, and uncaring politicians away with it].



UK – Sea Level Rise Map

The maps below shows areas of the UK that would be flooded at of sea level rise of 9 metres. 


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