Hampshire's saviours and saints of flooding
Friday 21 February 2014
Hampshire County Council Leader, Councillor Roy Perry has written to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Local Government, inviting them to come to Hampshire to see the problems faced by flooding.
Commenting at the meeting of the full County Council (Thursday 20 February), Councillor Perry said he was pleased that Hampshire County Council had already been congratulated in Parliament by Ministers for the effective and cooperative way that problems were being tackled, and he wanted them to come to Hampshire to see at first hand how the county is coping, with great community effort. He has also called for meetings with the bosses of the utility companies to discuss ideas to make Hampshire more resilient to these sorts of events in the future.
County Councillors today paid tribute to the people of Hampshire who turned up to help their neighbours in around 100 communities affected by the repeated high winds, local flooding and unprecedented rainfall. "When the weather calms down, we will find an appropriate way to express our thanks to all who have helped. They have been saviours and saints," Councillor Perry said.
He also led tributes to staff for their work, day and night, to keep Hampshire moving and help people protect their properties. "Not only have our Highways, Environment and Emergency Planning staff been involved as front line responders, but all departments; from Children's Services springing into action to arrange temporary accommodation for St Bede School in Winchester, to Adult Services being on hand with help when people in Basingstoke were flooded out.
"I pay tribute to our ACSOs who have been deployed in Hambledon, but also to the staff of our contractors Amey who have given great support and responded to our requests for additional resources, and also the officers and staff of the district councils, the emergency services, Environment Agency, utility companies, and the military. We always say the Armed Services are welcome in Hampshire, and last week we saw why. Partnership work is crucial and we are committed to that, and we have also seen private companies who just pitched up with their equipment. Nor can we forget the support of farmers."
Councillor Perry said there would be lessons to be learned, and as the Lead Local Flood Authority, the Council had already instituted an independent investigation into the New Year flooding in Romsey. "I think there will need to be others, and we are not out of the woods, or the water yet with the current round of flooding" he said.
Answering a question on roads, the Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment, Councillor Seán Woodward, said the wet weather is having a knock-on effect on the condition of the network, and severe or long-standing flooding is likely to have an exceptionally damaging impact which will not become fully apparent until the water levels subside. He added: "Highways officers are currently prioritising work and ensuring key frontline resources are directed to those areas with the greatest need; this does of course mean that some of the lower priority issues are having to be deferred until there is some respite.
"Highways have been working with Emergency Planning colleagues, participating and contributing fully to the multi-agency response to flooding issues across the whole of Hampshire, and they will take a leading role when the multi-agency work enters the recovery phase.
"Rainfall has caused groundwater levels and rivers to rise rapidly over recent weeks and a number of areas have been subject to flooding or repeated flood, which will continue to be monitored by the County Council so that we are able to respond rapidly to ensure highways, particularly main roads and other roads to critical infrastructure, remain open where possible. However, some roads are under floodwater and several remain closed, notably in Hambledon, the A272 at Bramdean and the A32 at Farringdon. Innovative solutions have been used where possible to open roads to traffic, such as the temporary elevated road in Andover Road in Winchester, or the temporary pipework put in to the B3049 between Winchester and Stockbridge earlier this week .
"Around 70,000 sandbags have been deployed in Hampshire alone. Members will no doubt be familiar with the problems related to the River Itchen at Winchester and River Test in Romsey, and other problem areas such as Buckskin in Basingstoke, and the winterbournes in Test Valley and Basingstoke. Highways have been the main source of sandbags through their highway contractor Amey, and sandbag production has been helped enormously by the military. Our depot at Micheldever, in co-operation with the military, became the strategic supply source for the emergency response."
Councillor Woodward added that the recent Government announcement on extra funding to be made available to specifically address the deterioration in the fabric of the network, and to support local businesses, was very welcome, but at this stage the funding allocations are not known.