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Guest blog: We must invest heavily to manage the UK’s flood risk

Mary DhonauI have first-hand experience of being repeatedly flooded out of my home. The ravages of flood water can have far-reaching consequences for everyone affected, not only in terms of the physical damage caused but also less obvious issues, such as stress and depression.

The first bleak walk back into your waterlogged home is so hard to comprehend, if you’ve not been through it yourself. Your belongings are covered with a thick brown sludge, your furniture is sodden and your home stinks. You watch helplessly as everything you have worked so hard for is thrown into a skip. Worse still, you lose items that no insurance policy can ever replace: a child’s first drawings; photographs of relatives who are no longer with us; and it is these experiences that are heart-breaking.

Extreme weather events are becoming too common place to be ignored, and flooding is the biggest natural threat faced by the UK.

Since the 1990’s, when my first flood happened, I have spoken to and visited countless people who have their lives devastated by being flooded. They have spoken to me of their utter despair at having lost their home, their ‘sanctuary’, in this way. Flood water is a silent, indiscriminate burglar that takes no prisoners, and doesn’t care whether its victims are the young, old, disabled, rich or poor. It seems to malevolently wreck the lives of thousands of people, year in, year out. It is impossible to put an accurate price tag on the cost of being flooded, but so many people tell me that it the worst singular experience in their lives and the memory of it will stay with them forever.

Extreme weather events are becoming too common place to be ignored, and flooding is the biggest natural threat faced by the UK. It is my belief that flooding is already happening more regularly and last winter’s endless TV footage clearly demonstrated the demands made on our country by the wettest winter on record accompanied by high tidal surges. Never has it been more essential to invest in both building and maintaining flood defences. If we are to avoid vast swathes of the country being brought to its knees on a regular basis then we must invest heavily in all aspects of flood risk management.

In this small country of ours, we have already built too many homes in inappropriate places and the knock on effect on individuals and communities has been devastating and costly. It is time to put an end to this short-sighted irresponsibility. We urgently need a cross party consensus for managing floods, one that will address all forms of flood risk, one with an ambitious long term goal that will embrace innovation and investment to reduce flood risk.

Mary Dhonau is Chair of the Flood Protection Group Property Care Association and Chief Executive of the Know Your Flood Risk Campaign.

For further information please see the Flood Free Homes campaign website.


Last updated 29/06/2016