Shropshire Star comment: Proper planning needed over flooding

After the rain... the rain.

Flooding along the A49 between Shrewsbury and Craven Arms
Flooding along the A49 between Shrewsbury and Craven Arms

With more coming, the flood barriers are going up in our river towns. The likes of Shrewsbury and Ironbridge have the impact of severe flooding seared into their collective consciousness.

Nationally, communities in Yorkshire and Derbyshire are feeling the misery of the floods.

There has always been flooding, but the debate about climate change and altering weather patterns leaves a question of whether we are seeing a permanent shift and we can expect the occasional to become the normal.

Listen to residents, and the message generally coming back is that they have never known it so bad, so often.

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At least there have been significant advances in the last 20 years or so. The advent of flood barriers must have spared towns of many millions of pounds of economic damage, and spared untold numbers of residents the anguish and heartbreak of seeing their homes and possessions inundated.

There was significant opposition in some places to flood defences in the early days, and doubts over how effective they could be. Now there is a clamour to have them, although other issues have arisen. If water is kept clear of Place A, that water does not disappear, and adds to the torrent and the volume looking for somewhere to invade.

Physical barriers can only be part of the overall picture because there are so many complex threats it is impossible to defend against them all. In the right circumstances, every stream and brook can flood. Water can cascade off fields and hillsides. How could you protect against that? A storm drain blocked by debris can lead to a rapid build-up of floodwater. And so on.

So throwing up flood defences isn’t going to be enough. There has to be a strategic plan, which means management of our rivers, careful consideration of where it is safe to build, ensuring flood plains are effective, and deciding where we are happy for it to flood, because until we can control the weather, we cannot control the amount of rain, but we can try to channel it into harmless areas.

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