Severe storms for Christmas? Have we learnt the lessons from last year?

Ian Heijne | 22 Dec 2016 | Comments

With another storm likely to hit this weekend across the UK, leaving a trail of carnage and destruction, we can only wonder if the UK is ready for another stormy winter and whether the lessons learnt from last winter have been enacted.

For me, it’s quite worrying to think about what communities across the country can expect to experience in weather terms over the next 6 months, and the subsequent impacts.

Last winter, a great deal of effort was employed into making repairs across those areas badly affected. Atkins worked with a number of public organisations and construction partners to ensure that the river systems breached in the winter of 15/16 are ready to protect the local communities from future torrential weather that we can no doubt expect (given the patterns of heavier rainfall in recent times). This work supports the government’s promises made in early 2016 which are now are largely in place.

The government has also undertaken the National Flood Resilience Review. One of the key aims of the government as highlighted in the review, was that infrastructure companies would have emergency response plans to flooding in place. Meaning that critical assets are protected and any outages are quickly re-instated. In my view, we are already seeing improvements in utility response to the current events.

We have also seen the Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs Committee produce a cross party report demanding a strong focus on joined up and efficient action to improve flood protection by creating a ‘National Floods Commissioner’ and new English Rivers and Coastal Authority. However, their recommendations for action will no doubt have long implementation time lines. The committee’s call for catchment measures for example, offers no immediate respite to the current situation.

So, what are we to expect next in terms of action to prevent future flooding?

In the long term, we can be certain that the UK government will continue to invest in the areas of highest risk – helping to keep our most vulnerable communities safe. We can also be certain that whether a new authority is created or if the existing arrangements continue - the implementation of greater resilience and catchment solutions will happen, albeit slowly and over many years. Without a doubt, the technical community is already working hard to address the fragile situation with the funds that are available.

But extreme weather will continue to thrash our country each year, whether that is high winds, storms, huge waves along the coast, or even leaves on our rail tracks. We must, in my view, continue to hold our authorities and utility companies to account. And the public needs to be prepared - understand your local risk, listen to the forecasts, behave sensibly and most importantly be safe.