This week I sat in a meeting with the Environment Agency. We were there to discuss my plans to restore the River Stour through Canterbury. I was polite as I listened to plans to install concrete walls where I would like to create soft banks with wetland plants. I said that I understood it was hard to give the go ahead to plans which would increase the wildlife of the river when people were on the phone screaming at you because their riverside garden was flooded and their garden gnomes were floating out to sea. I was courteous to all those at the table, after all these were not the rule setters just the people forced to abide by them but the truth of it is I don’t believe what they believe. I don’t believe that protecting every property against a 1 in 100 year flood is correct. 1 in 100 year floods are massive and very rare. Why are we allowing the wildlife and health of our rivers to suffer for 99 years just to protect the interest of a very small number of water front properties?
Millions of pounds of public money are sucked up to protect the interests of a small minority while instead it could be used to give life back to our rivers so they could not only benefit wildlife but the many more people who enjoy our beautiful rivers for recreation. When are we going to accept that we have built too many properties in the flood plain and some of them are just going to be too expensive to protect?
I appreciate that my property is far enough from a river that it is only likely to flood in a 1 in 1000 year event but if you knocked a 0 off of this, I’d take it. I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t protect people or their properties from flooding at all. Protecting properties from regularly flooding is correct, maybe accepting that your living room is going to float out to sea every 10 years is too much to expect of anyone. But personally if I owned a property that backed onto a river I would accept that a soggy garden and yes, maybe even a soggy cellar was part of the bargain. Fair payment for the day in day out enjoyment of enjoying a healthy river system which benefits everyone.