The shocking truth is that these floods were not a natural disaster, but the result of deliberate policy
I fear the front-page story in The Telegraph – revealing that the worst of the flood damage could have been prevented – didn’t tell the half of it. Nor did another newspaper’s “exclusive” on the story, reported here last week, that the Met Office had forecast in November that the three months between December and February would be drier than usual.
Devastating evidence has now come to light not just that the floods covering 65 square miles of the Somerset Levels could have been prevented, but that they were deliberately engineered by Labour ministers in 2009, regardless of the property and human rights of the thousands of people whose homes and livelihoods would be affected. Furthermore, that wildly misleading Met Office forecast in November led the Environment Agency to take a step that has made the flooding infinitely more disastrous than it need have been.
The “smoking guns” begin with a policy decision announced in 2005 by Labour’s “floods minister” Elliot Morley, later to be jailed for fraudulently claiming more than £30,000 on his MP’s expenses. Under the heading “Saving wetland habitats: more money for key sites”, Morley directed that, to comply with the EU’s habitats directive and a part-EU-funded study involving the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the WWF and the Environment Agency, flooding in Somerset should be artificially promoted, because “wildlife will benefit from increased water levels”. The 13 local drainage boards, responsible for keeping the Levels properly managed, were all to be co-opted into implementing this policy.
The Environment Agency had already stopped proper dredging of the River Parrett, which provides the main channel draining floodwater on the Levels to the sea, because of the exorbitant cost of disposing of silt under EU waste regulations. And Morley had vetoed a proposal to build a new pumping station at Dunball, at the end of the massive Kings Sedgemoor Drain, which would have allowed much more effective, 24-hour pumping of flood water into the mouth of the Parrett estuary,
In 2008, an Environment Agency policy document on the “Parrett Catchment Area” admitted that it was “still not completely clear” how much the deliberate increase in flooding would breach “the property rights and Human Rights” of those whose homes and businesses would be damaged. Yet in 2009, the government gave £8 million to “restore” – ie, increase flooding on – 10 Somerset “floodplains”, including the purchase of a large area of farmland at Southlake Moor next to Burrowbridge on the Parrett, which had been drained since the 13th century. It was to be handed over to Natural England to “store” water as habitat for birds when, as the Met Office was already predicting, climate change would bring drier winters.
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