Columnist: Council leader Ryan Fuller writes on Flooding

This was the scene above Huntingdon Racecourse last December.

This was the scene above Huntingdon Racecourse last December. - Credit: GEOFF SODEN

This week we are supporting Flood Awareness Week, a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Resilience Forum initiative, which urges all residents and businesses to be prepared and know what to do should flooding occur.

Last Christmas was memorable for many reasons, not least the terrible flooding that swept across parts of the district and surrounding areas.

Events such as those can have a significant impact on our residents, communities and local businesses and can destroy livelihoods.

The District Council is not generally responsible for watercourses and is not the lead local flood authority. However, in response to the events of last winter and in the face of a very confusing and bureaucratic hierarchy when it comes to working out exactly which agency is responsible for each watercourse or drains, HDC volunteered to review local flood arrangements with key partners to ensure that all steps are being taken to try and prevent and reduce the damage caused by future floods.

Cllr Ryan Fuller is leader of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Cllr Ryan Fuller is leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: HDC

The flooding review, carried out by a cross-party overview and scrutiny group, involved key partners including Cambridgeshire County Council as the local lead flood authority (and the authority responsible for highways drains and gullies), the Environment Agency (with responsibility for major rivers and watercourses), and Anglian Water.

As part of this work, we communicated with all parish councils in the district urging communities to be aware of the risks and steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of a flood and encouraging parishes to undertake their own local flood planning work.

Houghton and Wyton Parish Council has recently presented their excellent flood plan to our executive councillor for Community Resilience and Well-Being, Cllr Simon Bywater, and our executive councillor for Strategic Planning and Emergency Planning, Cllr Jon Neish.

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This is a great example of a parish proactively planning and taking steps on behalf of their community to reduce the impact of any future flood events, and we hope others will follow their lead.

Many local communities have also worked to develop flood preparedness plans, which identify vulnerable points in their town or village, including homes that are more at risk, and they bring together ‘flood groups’ – people who help others if there’s a risk of flooding. You can find out if your local areas has one, or find out more information about setting one up, by emailing cfap@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

Being prepared, knowing what to do if your home or business floods and taking some simple steps can reduce the potential damage by around 40 per cent.

So along with these flood plans, if you’re at risk of flooding, you may be able to receive flood alerts and warnings, completely free. Register with Environment Agency Flood Warnings Direct service by visiting the GOV.UK website or call Floodline on 0345 988 118.

Take some time as well to learn how to isolate services to your home and think about gathering essential items like, water, blankets, essential medication and food into a safe space, Search online for ‘flood prevention flood bags’ and there will be lots of options which could help make your home more flood resilient. GOV.UK also has resources to help you develop a personal flood plan which could help keep you safe and reduce the cost of potential damage.

Driving through flood water should be avoided as it can damage your car and it is surprising how little water it takes to float a car, putting you in danger. If you know someone who is vulnerable and that lives in a flood risk area, then have a chat with them to make sure they know what to do and who to contact. In a life risk situation, always dial 999.

GOV.UK also has resources to help you develop a personal flood plan which could help keep you safe and reduce the cost of potential damage.

Flooding is incredibly distressing when it happens and so I hope initiatives such as Flood Awareness Week will encourage people to be prepared and know what to do should their home or business face the risk of flooding. The District Council’s flood advice page has been updated and can be viewed at https://www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/environmental-issues/flooding.

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