Our drainage boards holding back the tide

Our drainage boards have prevented scenes like these in Portsmouth
Our drainage boards have prevented scenes like these in Portsmouth

MP John Hayes writes for spaldingtoday.co.uk

In 1953, the year of our Queen’s coronation, the North Sea flood created a huge tidal surge along the east coast of England, an event regarded as one of the worst natural disasters Britain has suffered.

The effect on Lincolnshire was devastating, as across Eastern England 30,000 people were evacuated from their homes, 24,000 properties badly damaged, and over 300 people lost their lives.

The bold response to that tragedy saw major investment in flood defences, totalling £250 million in the following decade, with the development of an early warning system to prevent a repeat of the horrors afflicted upon Lincolnshire and other eastern counties.

Once again bold decisions are being taken to keep us safe. The Government has invested record amounts in flood defence – a total of £2.4 billion over four years, which will result in 165,000 households being better protected than in 2010.

Recently, an additional 42 flood defence schemes – including those at King’s Lynn, Lincoln, Louth and Horncastle – have been announced and an extra £130 million made available for flood relief.

Riparian owners have long understood their responsibility to protect themselves and their communities from flooding. Indeed, the fertile place we inhabit is the product of successive drainage and reclamation schemes from Roman times onwards.

This long history of drainage in the Fens was the backdrop to the creation of the South Holland and the Welland and Deepings Internal Drainage Boards, and others like them under the terms of the Land Drainage Act in 1930.

These IDBs have responsibility for pumping stations which provide a vital line of defence. The first electric pumping station came to life in 1949 and the boards have overseen the construction of many more since.

South Holland IDB has responsibility for three main sluices and 17 pumping stations, two of which were opened in the last decade.

The work of drainage boards, demonstrating the importance of local wisdom and foresight, is an exemplar of high quality public service delivery. They combine the stewardship of local land, the support of local councils and engineering expertise. Because we have this time honoured experience at our disposal we understand the relationship between the land and water.

Yet, strangely, given the degree of protection we enjoy, the Environment Agency’s Flood Map for Planning classifies our area as a ‘Flood Zone 3’, meaning a ‘high probability of flooding’. Plainly, the erroneous map fails to take into account the vital local work which protects us so well. In short, drainage boards deliver and deserve our grateful thanks for doing so.