Government heeds warning on Carlisle floods

The Environment Minister Elliot Morley has said that Defra and its regional partners will be taking forward the recommendations of two reports into the Carlisle floods as part of a new Flood Emergencies Capabilities Programme.

Carlisle and the North West of England were devastated by floods in January this year (see related story) causing millions of pounds worth of damage after a month’s worth of rain fell in just 36 hours.

The reports, one from the Environment Agency and the other a compilation of local responses, show that flooding came from both rivers and surface water routes.

“The conditions as experienced in January also make the provision of timely warnings extremely difficult, for example in some parts of Carlisle where flooding from surface water sources preceded overtopping of the river defences,” Mr Morley said. “Nevertheless, the Environment Agency is reviewing with other bodies involved what improvements can be made to warning systems.”

“For our part we are taking forward the recommendations in these reports on strengthening resilience to flooding events through improved cross government and agency co-ordination under a new flood emergencies capability programme, which will look at the key issues that local responders have identified as needing further attention.”

The Environment Agency report calls for “integrated solutions” to manage all future flood risks combining the Highways Agency, local authorities and public utilities, as well as calling for all ‘at-risk’ businesses and householders to do what they can to strengthen their resilience.

Carlisle MP Eric Martlew said the report should become a blueprint, not just for Carlisle, but for all major cities. “January’s disaster in Carlisle was the biggest flood to hit an urban area and the Government and every major city should be looking at the report’s findings closely,” he told the local News & Star. “There are many lessons to be learnt. For example, having the police and fire stations so close together proved a big problem when both were flooded.”

The Government announced new plans for flood defences for Carlisle and the Environment Agency was given a far greater role in flood defence management in April this year (see related story).

By David Hopkins

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