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Working together to avoid the worst

By The Citizen  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

  • PITCHING IN: Soldiers preparing nearly 3000 sand bags for flood defences.

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NATURE'S long assault on everything close to the sea, rivers or their tributaries has been a long siege – and it even looks like that on Alney Island as the Environment Agency's pumps and the Marines sandbags line doors and streets.

Like another siege long ago, the man-made one led by King Charles, Gloucester has survived so far miraculously well. Others, of course, have had it much worse already.

But we will be tested again this weekend when the Severn at Gloucester may reach yet closer to its 2007 peaks as more high winds, rain (and hail and sleet in the hills) are forecast for this weekend. It's hard to predict an end to the weather assault yet.

So it will be another tough few days for residents close to the Severn, and falling trees in high winds will make travelling by car more dangerous too.

My message above all is to keep informed. Look out for your neighbour and report anything that needs attention (trees down or houses not sandbagged) to your council, the Environment Agency or 999 if need be.

The Environment Agency and local authorities in Gloucester are responding rapidly to various messages I sent them with issues – clearing trees and supermarket trolleys in streams, preparing sandbags around houses closest to the river and city residents who have a good case for sandbags should contact gill.ragon@gloucester.gov.uk. Residents on Dean's Way and Rivermead should already have sandbags, as has everyone on Alney Island, the area still most at risk.

In answer to queries about power supplies, the flood prevention programme put in place at the Castlemeads and Mythe stations after 2007, along with 24-hour monitoring of the site and pumps on standby, should prevent 2007-like disasters.

The recent investment in drains and sewage across Kingsholm and Westgate by Severn Trent has been a great success, as has the balancing pond for the Horsbere Brook and improvements to other brooks.

These improvements and the flood defence walls at Alney Island have made a huge difference.

Nonetheless the battle continues. A number of road closures remain in place around the county due to the high water levels. Where roads are closed due to flooding, it's safest not to attempt to drive through floodwater. For the latest information on road closures go to www.gloucestershire.gov.uk or call Gloucestershire Highways on 08000 514 514.

When it comes to rail as I know from my travels, because of submerged cable lines, this week First Great Western is running an amended service between Gloucester and Paddington and latest updates can be found at nationalrail.co.uk.

For updates please follow @Glosprepared, @GlosHighways, @Glosfire and @GlosCC, @EnvAgencyMids on Twitter for updates using the hashtag #floodglos #floodaware, or log onto the website www.glosprepared.co.uk.

The Environment Agency's live flood warning map can be found at environment-agency.gov.uk and the Floodline number is 0345 9881188.

Other help is available. A good flood insurance policy is critical and information on claiming and assistance is available here. The insurance industry has committed to continue to offer flood cover to existing customers until June 2015 when a new scheme negotiated by the Government starts that will ensure flood insurance remains widely affordable and available.

We've solved insurance issues for a couple of people: let me know by email richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk if you have any problems.

Lastly, the Prime Minister's package of measures to help those affected includes £5,000 repair and renew grant for all affected homeowners and businesses, 100% business rate relief for three months for all businesses affected by the flooding. A £10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields to help restore it to farmable land as quickly as possible, a total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods.

The next few days are pretty critical and will be our biggest test since 2007. As then the key is community resilience and if any of you see a situation that needs help please let me know. There are several voluntary groups and SARA also ready to help.

The assault continues: and so must our determination to avoid the worst. I'm grateful for the work of all the uniformed and non-uniformed services involved.

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  • IanIEA  |  February 22 2014, 3:53PM

    Inside the Environment Agency Blog: http://tinyurl.com/o6y5w5r - An ex-EA manager put the internal green conflicts succinctly in his comment the other day, so it's lack of proper direction and priorities: John: "You can consider me one of those senior EA manager - worked in various functions for 9 years, the last 3 as a AEM before leaving in 2011. Most functions outside of FCRM are over funded and inefficient (sustainable places, biodiversity, groundwater, fisheries, even EM itself). At least a fifth of the budget could be re-allocated to higher priority projects by reducing these functions without any detrimental impact to their ability to meet legislative requirements. Unfortunately, the Pitt Review from the 2007 floods was rushed, so didn't go far enough, otherwise, the EA would not again be in the position it is in. That being said, there are some very fine, hard-working and dedicated employees."