December’s storm was our wake up call

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Word on the Ground by Stafford Proctor

Nature is bursting into life and the countryside is full of growth. Although spring planted crops are struggling in cold, dry seed beds with little prospect of April showers, the wheat is flourishing and oilseeds are in vivid yellow flower.

This year we should savour these joys of spring after a long, wet winter with storms and flooding.

The December 5 storm surge was nearly catastrophic in the Fens. The sea overtopped the defences at Boston, inundating houses, businesses and Boston Stump, as well as a breeching part of the wash frontage at Friskney.

Town flood defences held successfully at Spalding, Wisbech and King’s Lynn, and the wash frontage and tidal river embankments proved to be adequate – but only just. If wind direction and strength had been optimal for the surge, another metre of water would have produced a different outcome.

Next time we may not be so fortunate. Climate change is leading to slowly rising sea levels and more volatile weather events.

It’s our wake up call. We need to improve our defences along the Wash frontage and tidal river embankments. We have much to protect: people, communities, towns, industry, agriculture, nature, electricity generation and infrastructure.

Partnership funding needs developing, combining national, regional and local sources of finance.

Local communities, businesses and farmers need to push for these improvements. Our predecessors have improved defences for centuries, now it is our turn to ensure that future generations can experience the joy of a Fenland spring.