East Coast: Area was just inches from being flooded
Norfolk and Suffolk came within inches of being flooded when the tidal surge struck the East Coast in December, Norfolk farmer and drainage boss Henry Cator told MPs.
The former chairman of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, who is now chairman of the Association of Drainage Authorities, told the environment select committee it was time the Treasury realised that proper money needed to be invested in maintenance.
He said that Great Yarmouth had come within inches of being flooded, and the government could not take for granted that systems would work without spending money on maintenance.
After visiting the flood-hit Somerset Levels over the weekend he said the cost of inaction was “very high”, telling MPs that the diesel for the pumps was costing £200,000 a week alone.
Mr Cator, who farms at Salhouse, near Norwich said: “During the December storm the east of the country came within inches of being inundated. It was only spared by luck. Be in no doubt there is no room for complacency.”
He called for more money to be spent, saying: “Maintenance is not a luxury... If you don’t do it you are in trouble.”
He warned: “We are very nearly in trouble in a huge number of areas throughout the country. It is time the Treasury realised that proper money needs to be invested in maintenance if we are to have any hope at all of protecting ourselves against the challenges that climate change is throwing at us.”
Mr Cator called for the government to give more input to internal drainage boards and local authorities.
He said: “On the whole local people have a much closer connectivity with the catchments we are talking about. We all realise money is short. There is not a bottomless pit. But the consequences of not spending money on maintenance are dire.”