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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Experts must look at whole flood defence picture - campaigners

Campaigners in Cumbria are calling for joined up thinking over flood protection, rather than letting it become a fight between town and country.

The head of the Environment Agency has sparked controversy, saying that future funding decisions may have to be based on a choice between protecting front rooms or farmland.

Chairman Lord Smith warned there is “no bottomless purse” for defences, so there needs to be “difficult but sensible choices” made about where and what to protect. For example choosing between “town and country”.

However Lynne Jones, vice chairwoman of the Keswick Flood Action Group, said what happened to one area directly affected those around it.

She called for a more joined-up approach.

“Land management in rural areas around Cumbrian towns obviously has an impact on what happens with flooding in the towns,” she explained.

“Our biggest problem now is that although we got funding for the river defences, dealing with surface water flooding wasn’t taken into account. We are now protected from the river but not surface water, which can be more instant and more unpredictable.

“You have got to look at the whole situation. If you solve a problem in one area the water goes to another. There has to be a completely joined- up approach because of that.”

She added that accessing future funding was a concern for the group and the town.

Among those concerned at Lord Smith’s comments was Gary Thwaite, from G&S Fitness, on Miller Park, Station Road, Wigton.

His gym was flooded in May last year, when flash flooding hit rural parts of north Cumbria.

“How will they differentiate between town and country?” Mr Thwaite questioned. “Does it mean to say that we are less important than those living in a town or city?”

Mr Thwaite added: “We are in the process of having flood gates built, but they cost £2,00-£3,000 and times are tough. We are only a small business.”

Mr Smith made the comments after criticism of the Environment Agency’s response to the Somerset Levels floods.

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