This week, I made several local visits to assess flood damage and to discuss plans and requirements to reduce the chances of this happening again.
Some of the flooding is classed as an ‘Act of God’, with heavy and sustained rain falling in a short time on sodden ground. London, for example, is reported to have received half its annual rainfall total in three weeks over Christmas but in many areas there are sustained and structural problems to solve.
At Enford, for example, the run-off from land behind the village, the emergence of springs with enough force to lift the road surface and under-capacity drains were all cited as part of problem and I have been in touch with the MoD and Wiltshire Council’s flood engineers to ask for more information and to see an action plan.
It was heartening, however, to see the community spirit that prevailed in defending at-risk properties, and also to hear that the emergency services and Wiltshire Council had been proactive and engaged over the last few weeks.
The same was true in the Bedwyns where the force and rapidity with which the torrent rose was unprecedented and frightening.
As the superbly organised Bedwyn Flood Group has established, the ownership and responsibility for local land and drainage are very complicated but nevertheless there are some immediate next steps including chasing DEFRA for £475,000 of flood protection funding, sorting out the pumping and capacity issues in Little Bedwyn and The Knapp, working with Network Rail on culverts and pipes, sorting out roadside and drain maintenance and working more on flood protection in the home.
It is striking that very little is done by insurance companies to help people flood-proof their homes, and that we rely on sandbags to provide a main line of defence when more high tech, cheaper and easier solutions exist.
I have arranged a meeting with Ministers to discuss how best to work with the insurance industry on prevention and protection.
Finally, in Aldbourne, ongoing pipe capacity problems exist and I will be meeting Thames Water next week to raise this and the other local concerns.
Also this week I held a meeting with the Rail Minister, Stephen Hammond, to discuss electrification to Bedwyn and service provision at Bedwyn and Pewsey stations. I was also delighted to see that Pewsey is considered one of Britain’s most friendly commuting stations.