flooding bentley 2007Six and a half years ago I lived in one of the severe flooded areas in the UK. On the north side of Doncaster to be precisely.
I was lucky because the house was on a hill, but all around , houses, streets and fields were filled with knee-high water and in lower area’s even higher.

Being Dutch I was flabbergasted. Not only by the flooding, but especially by how things were handled in the aftermath.
So I wrote a blog (dutch) with the following part:

The floods of the past week are not an isolated phenomenon. It happens very often that parts of the UK are flooded… the UK has a big problem with water management. In various debates and publications it does not seem to get beyond the question whether or not to built in potential flood areas. However, everybody avoids the elephant in the room; lack of maintenance , lack of investment in water supply and drainage systems , and inadequate flood barriers. The Yorkshire Regional Flood Defense Committee reported the following :

“Last month Defra announced that the Environment Agency nationally would receive a total of £436 million to fund flood management in the next financial year compared with £413m in 2006/2007. The Yorkshire Regional Flood Defense committee today (Thursday18-Jan-2007) confirmed that a total of £35m will be allocated to North, West and South Yorkshire, and East Ridings of Yorkshire in 2007/08. This is compared with £32.4m in 2006/07.”

Compared with the budget of the Netherlands, 174 million for management and maintenance , and 360 million for new construction and dikes, this is a joke.

The newspapers were full of comments last week . In the Independent there was an article about the problems in my hometown Bentley, Doncaster . The journalist Jonathan Brown began his commentary as follows:

” Anyone looking for a scapegoat to blame for this week ‘s devastating floods in Doncaster could done worse than point the finger at Cornelius Vermuyden , the Dutch engineer who , in 1627 , diverted the River Don northwards to the River Ouse from its natural drainage point into the Trent to ease the passage of coal barges bound for the Pennines . “..

It provoked me to write a letter to the editor of the Independent, which, except for the recommendation, was published .

In last Saturdays Independent Jonathan Brown points his finger at Sir Cornelius Vermuyden as being the bad genius behind the flood disaster of this week. Indeed the Dutch engineer was contracted in 1626 by King Charles I to reclaim land in the Hatfield Chase in the Isle of Axholme and the Fens. The project was financed by English and Dutch capital and Cornelius Vermuyden was paid by giving him 1/3 of the reclaimed land. In 1629, this country knighted Cornelius for his efforts.
So the blueprint for water management in the Don Valley was laid 380 years, but what happened after that? Where the Dutch kept on reclaiming land and fighting the water by innovating and investing in water management, the English did not.
By the end of the 17th century, most of the reclaimed land was again under water. They installed some windmills, but it took until the invention of the steam engine to drain the reclaimed land again. This slack attitude didn’t change, outstanding maintenance on the waterworks and the draining systems, leading to droughts and floods are proof of that. Therefore, if we are pointing fingers we have to do that at ourselves. It is up to us to put water management and flood defenses at the top of the priority list. When we put the same effort and money, as we do with terrorism, into this national security risk maybe we can combat nature. So best thing to do is, stop looking for scapegoats, put the water management at the top of the priority list, contract the Dutch and keep our fingers crossed that the rain of last week does not repeat as often as now is feared.

Now nearly seven years later, for many people Christmas was again ruined by floods. Surely, I would have thought that the Brits had ondertook some action. Idle hope and there can be no other reason than that the UK doesn’t want anything else but to drown itself.