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Article for the News & Crier: Flooding

13th March 2013

With the recent heavy rain, many of my constituents will have been closely monitoring the local river levels and flood alerts for their local area. Living near the Alconbury Brook, I am very aware of how distressing flooding can be. When I was first elected, properties were regularly at risk of flooding; including in St Ives and The Hemingfords, The Alconburys, The Paddocks in Eaton Ford and in Godmanchester, causing considerable distress and disruption.

However, during the last 12 years the Environment Agency have worked with local residents and councils to provide flood alleviation schemes in these areas and this is something I have championed. These schemes, in addition to better forward notice, flood alert systems and flood event management, have made a real difference to people’s lives. We have gone from a situation where homes were regularly flooded and roads were blocked to one where few, if any, homes are affected by flooding even when we have witnessed the weather we have (four major flood events) over the last few months. Well done to the Environment Agency of a job well done.

The Government has recognises the devastation that flooding can cause and has acted. A new national framework - The National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England – provides for local communities to develop local partnerships and solutions to the flood and coastal erosion risks they face. This also ensures that local decisions are consistent and take account of impacts on other areas.
Defra is now on course to spend £2.3 billion on alleviating flooding and coastal erosion over the current four year spending period. This includes an extra £120 million for flood defences that was announced in the Autumn Statement and an additional £72 million of external partnership funding over the next two years.

During 2012, 200,000 properties were protected from flooding by flood defences and Defra now expects to exceed the Government’s stated aim to better protect 145,000 more homes from flooding and coastal erosion by March 2015. In addition, the extra £120 million of funding announced in the Autumn Statement will enable the Government to protect up to a further 60,000 properties. Locally, further flood defences are now being put in place throughout Godmanchester to protect many more properties from the risk of flooding. I take this opportunity to thank those Godmanchester residents who have helped their community permitting their gardens to be used for defence walls – in many cases when they themselves are not at risk of flooding.

This Government is also committed to making sure people living in households which lie in flood–prone areas, are still able to get insurance cover at a reasonable price. Many constituents have complained to me about the cost of their insurance. Some are unable to buy insurance at all.

In order to make sure that insurance for homes at risk of flooding remains widely available and affordable work is underway to establish an arrangement with the insurance companies. The objective is to reach an agreement whereby insurance bills remain affordable without placing unsustainable costs on wider policyholders and the taxpayer.

This is a complex issue, as insurers and Government recognised at a meeting I attended on the issue in Parliament. Defra has undertaken to work with the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to look at ways of providing safeguards. A number of proposals have come forward from the industry and the Government is continuing to consider a range of options.

Last week in Parliament I welcomed the new law to make foreign HGVs pay a levy to use our roads. With British HGVs paying charges and tolls to use European roads, this Bill delivers fairness for British hauliers, and rights a wrong that they have faced until now. In Huntingdonshire we see foreign lorries on our roads all the time, but they haven’t had to pay anything to use our roads. The A14 in particular has the highest volume of HGV traffic in the country and it is only fair that foreign lorries adding to the congestion on our local roads pay their fair share. From now on this will happen.


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