Exeter escaped by a whisker. We might not be so lucky next time. The Environment Agency says our 1960s flood defences are no longer adequate for the more frequent and serious flooding caused by climate change.
Upgrading Exeter’s defences is the EA’s top priority for the South West, but is being held up by the failure of Government to help fund the scheme. Cuts of 30% in flood defence investment mean that schemes like Exeter’s that used to be paid for nationally now require partial local funding. Both Exeter City and Devon County Councils have agreed to contribute, now the Government must step up the the plate. Cutting flood defences is a classic false economy. For every £1 you spend you save £8 in the long run from avoiding the damage and costs associated with flooding.
The Government must also deliver the deal it promised in July to renew Labour’s agreement with the insurance industry to guarantee affordable flooding cover for households and businesses. This should have happened by now as the deal runs out next summer and annual policies are already being affected. Premiums are shooting up and some people are not able to get cover at all.
The Government must also work with Network Rail to improve the resilience of our rail connections. Exeter and the Westcountry have essentially been cut off since Wednesday for rail travel. While there’s probably little or nothing that could have been done at the flooding’s height, rail services are increasingly being disrupted by less heavy rain. The emergency services, EA and our local media deserve warm thanks and congratulations for keeping the public informed and dealing with a very difficult situation.