Burnham-On-Sea’s MP has urged the Government to continue investment in “essential” flood defence schemes in the face of the ever-increasing threats of coastal flooding.
James Heappey, MP for Wells, praised ministers for the multi-million pound improvements which have already taken place in Somerset area in the wake of last year’s floods.
However, he stressed the need for ongoing Government support for these projects to avoid a repeat of 2014’s devastation and to allow the county to provide an example to other vulnerable areas of the UK.
Mr Heappey welcomed “all that has been done to help” so far, but stressed the importance of continuing to investing in these defences – even in times of good weather.
“For too long the problem has been that flooding has been discussed only when it is raining or the wind is blowing and the seas are at their most violent,” he said during a parliamentary debate.
“We have learned that the key to protecting our countryside and towns from flooding is persistent effort rather than going from crisis to crisis.”
Their comments came during a special debate on coastal flood risk, in which MPs called on the Government to take “urgent action” to prepare for the “inevitable impacts” of climate change.
The Labour MP Melanie Onn, who led the Commons debate, said the issue of flooding typically received “little or no attention” from Westminster “until a major flooding incident occurs”.
Mr Heappey pressed the Government on the role that the SRA will play and on how it will be funded in the future.
“At the authority’s heart is the belief that the solution [to flooding] was a locally sensitive, dynamic organisation that would tackle the causes of flooding across the entire catchment area. That is welcome, although I should report to the Minister that there are still some conflicts between the community and conservationists. I’m sure he’ll agree that when push comes to shove, the community and local business must win out on this issue.”
“His Department has been looking at the enduring options for funding the Somerset Rivers Authority. Will he update us on what point those options have reached and whether the Department is close to being able to offer Somerset County Council its recommendations on how the authority should be funded in the future?”
Whilst Environment Minister Rory Stewart was unable to reply during the debate itself, he subsequently informed Mr Heappey that DEFRA had concluded its study and the recommendations were with the Secretary of State for consideration.
Also in his speech, Mr Heappey commended the Bridgwater Bay Lagoon as an opportunity for further protection from high tides at Burnham-On-Sea.
Speaking afterwards, James Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “It was reassuring to see Parliamentary time being given to flooding whilst the weather is good and it is far from the top of the political agenda. It is vital we talk about this all year round.”
“The SRA has made good progress in the first year but we need to give the organisation certainty over its role and funding so that an enduring solution to Somerset’s flood risk can be delivered. I look forward to seeing what DEFRA recommend for the long term funding of the SRA and will work with the County Council to make sure it is a funding model that is fair for all in Somerset.”
The Environment Agency has spent more than £25million on a range of measures, including river dredging, updating pump infrastructure and creating a Somerset Rivers Authority.