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Olympic speed skier calls for better flood protection to prevent South Holland being inundated by storm surge from the North Sea




A former Olympic skier has challenged a belief that South Holland is adequately protected against future floods and storm surges.

Inventor and designer Stuart Wilkie (57), of Clenchwarton, near King's Lynn, has responded to comments by Sir John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, that warnings about the area being at medium to high risk of flooding was "unnecessary scaremongering".

A report by our sister newspaper, the Spalding Guardian, last month saw Sir John take issue with the chairman of the Environment Agency (EA), Emma Howard Boyd, who advised that "we cannot win a war against water".

Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency. Photo supplied.
Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency. Photo supplied.

But Mr Wilkie, who competed for Britain in speed skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France, believes more should be done to prepare for what he described as a "storm surge from the North Sea within the next ten to 15 years".

"I was pretty shocked when I read what Sir John Hayes said," Mr Wilkie said.

"The EA chairman was pretty brave to announce her warning to the public, but Sir John lambasted her about the risk to this area which is based on the agency's computer modelling.

"Sir John has produced nothing in evidence to outdo what Emma Howard Boyd said and I've yet to find anybody who would know what to do in the event of a flood."

Sir John Hayes MP has been challenged over his criticism of Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency, who said 'we need to move away from talking about flood defence'. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-110319-004TW
Sir John Hayes MP has been challenged over his criticism of Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency, who said 'we need to move away from talking about flood defence'. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG-110319-004TW

However, Mr Wilkie also had words of advice for Ms Howard Boyd in contrast to her view that "we need to move away from talking about flood defence".

"If we dredge the rivers, remove silt, sand and other debris from the bottom of The Wash, that would see an immediate reduction of risk to the people of South Holland.

"This is because the volume of silt removed a river is equal to the volume of water not spilling out over the top of flood banks.

Former Olympic speed skier Stuart Wilkie wants better flood protection measures for South Holland. Photo supplied.
Former Olympic speed skier Stuart Wilkie wants better flood protection measures for South Holland. Photo supplied.

"You could also create a lagoon or reservoir with a gate that would only be opened in the event of a storm surge.

"That could be done in the next five to ten years and help protect people's properties.

"There are over 40 years of empirical evidence of global warming, sea levels rising and a very near flood inundation in December 2013 which did top defences in certain places.

"It was too close for comfort and it was only the wind dropping in the final stages that stopped a flood from happening.

"People would sleep better in their beds if they knew that something prudent and sensible was being done to protect them."

The Flood marker at King's Lynn Minster. Photo supplied. (11567549)
The Flood marker at King's Lynn Minster. Photo supplied. (11567549)


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