FLOOD defences have saved the people of Upton from ‘misery’ and there is more money in the pot for similar schemes says the Environment Secretary.
Owen Paterson visited Waterside in Upton yesterday to see for himself the ‘brilliant’ flood defences which have protected the town and kept it open for business since they opened in July.
Mr Paterson and Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire, inspected the £4.5 million glass-topped defensive wall which has already protected 64 homes during five different floods.
The Environment Agency estimates the defences have protected homes and businesses from £1.6 million of damage for each flood, more than covering the original cost.
Mr Paterson said the Government had already pledged £2.17 billion to protect homes from flooding but had added £120 million in the Autumn Statement, the largest amount ever provided over a four year period to help the victims of flooding.
However, he confirmed no deal had yet been struck with the Association of British Insurers over the issue of affordable flood insurance in high risk areas.
He has met with Oliver Letwin, a Cabinet Office Minister, to talk about changes to insurance arrangements which run until July. He said the Government hoped to be able to introduce a system which was more effective and covered more homes without being a huge burden to the taxpayer.
Mr Paterson urged local authorities to bid for funding for flood schemes but said they needed to come up with ‘good schemes’ to met the criteria. Flooding is ‘a huge and complex problem’ he said.
He said: “These schemes stop a lot of trauma and misery. It’s tough and i’m very sympathetic to the people in the 20 homes affected in Kempsey. There were a significant number of houses protected by flood schemes.”
Twenty homes flooded in Kempsey in November after a gauge failed which meant the pumps did not work properly but said the Environment Agency had been ‘heroic’ over Christmas and New Year.
MP Harriett Baldwin said: “Since I was elected, six different flood defence schemes costing almost £9 million have been built in West Worcestershire, protecting hundreds of homes.”
She said: “All eyes now turn to Tenbury where we need to find a permanent solution and I have asked the Department to look at ways we can find funding for this scheme in 2013 ahead of my flood summit at the end of this month.”
Grahame Bunn who ran the King’s Head in Upton for 12 years said the pub suffered six major floods. He struggled to get flood insurance after a £360,000 payout following the floods of July 2007 when the pub was closed for nine months.
He said: “I think the defences are fantastic. They have secured the future of the town to be honest with you. I personally think they have enhanced the riverside. I don’t think it is a blight. Some said it would be like the Berlin Wall.”
Andrea Morgan, the mayor of Upton, said: “It has been a real asset to the town.” However, she said she would like to see Hanbury Road raised to protect it from flooding.
Flood warnings are in force at Holt Fleet, Bevere, North Worcester, South Worcester, Callow End and Court Meadow, Kempsey, East Waterside at Upton, Hanley Road at Upton, Rectory Road, Upton, Clifton and Severn Stroke. At Worcester the peak will be this afternoon (Thursday) at between 5 metres and 5.1 metres.
The river is responding to the rainfall at the weekend. No significant rainfall is expected this week.