EVEN though Ed Miliband said flooding was not a party political issue when harangued by one householder during a goodwill visit to a stricken area, he chose to break any consensus by accusing David Cameron of giving up the fight against climate change and warning that Britain is “sleepwalking into a national security crisis”.
His timing was deliberate. He wants to maximise the Prime Minister’s discomfort as the Tory party becomes increasingly divided by climate change sceptics – and those who regret Mr Cameron watering down the commitments to environmental policy that he made when he urged the electorate to “vote blue, go green” following his husky trip to the Arctic Circle.
Yet, while climate change is a profoundly philosophical argument that is likely to exercise politicians for a generation, the more pertinent intervention came from Mark Wilson, chief executive of insurance giant Aviva, after it emerged that hundreds of new homes are planned for the Thames Valley, Somerset Levels and other areas still under several feet of water. His conclusion is worth repeating: “As a nation, we need to build more homes, but the cost of development must include the cost of defences. Let’s be crystal clear: no defences, no development.”
Many will share this sentiment – this crisis has clearly been exacerbated by successive governments choosing to ignore basic lessons in geography and allowing development to take place on flood plains, especially on the lower reaches of the River Thames.
Each incidence of flooding, whether in Yorkshire or on the submerged Somerset Levels, also makes it even harder for householders to obtain affordable insurance. But this issue is not just about the stupidity of building homes close to rivers; many properties have been wrecked because the drains have been unable to handle record amounts of rainfall, in part because of the new obsession with paved gardens that reduces run-off areas.
That said, the threat will only become greater – irrespective of whether climate change is for real or not – unless all new developments are weather-proofed at the outset so the risk of future flooding is minimised. Such a requirement should be introduced without delay.
North Yorkshire left high and dry
A WORD of warning to those flood-hit areas now waiting for various Ministers to honour their various commitments to victims. Don’t hold your breath.
The whole of North Yorkshire received just £900 after roads and bridges were washed away in 2012.
It is why the Government is now being challenged to match the £5m that has been set aside by Tory-controlled North Yorkshire County Council to repair the area’s crumbling road network.
This issue “is rapidly becoming a crisis” according to the authority’s leader, John Weighell, who represents Bedale.
In light of the Prime Minister’s ‘money is no object’ promise, he will instruct Ministers to look favourably at this request.
Even though the current focus is on the Somerset Levels and Thames Valley, large parts of North Yorkshire remain vulnerable.
It is also slightly disingenuous for Whitehall to limit funding because of the county’s sparse population. This is naive. In terms of geography, North Yorkshire is England’s largest local authority and welcomes millions of tourists each year, even more so this July when the county hosts the Tour de France.
As Coun Weighell says, road maintenance is becoming a major financial drain because “cars,
HGVs and agricultural vehicles are getting heavier and larger and this has increased their impact on the condition of these minor roads”.
To his credit, his council has come up with a plan that will make limited resources go the extra mile, in terms of repairs, and the Government needs to reciprocate in kind if North Yorkshire is to remain open for business.
Dame Helen’s Bafta blood-letting
IT is ironic that Dame Helen Mirren has criticised the scale of gratuitous and graphic violence depicted on film and television, and particularly the disproportionate number of female characters killed off in the name of entertainment, when she has enjoyed such a successful career turning dramas into crises.
Yet Dame Helen, an iconic actress who actually came to public prominence in the 1980 gangster thriller The Long Good Friday, made a profound point as she received a much-deserved Bafta Fellowship award – the British film industry’s highest award – from Prince William last night.
Programmes become more violent, even more so since Scandinavian crime fiction was improved these shores, and it appears that a high body count is required before a film or drama is even commissioned. As such, Dame Helen is right to take a stand by refusing to accept roles in bloodthirsty dramas in the future. For, while some film executives will say that they’re responding to public demand, this sad state of affairs actually reflects a lack of imagination on the part of those script-writers who now appear to be struggling to come up with creative plot lines that once constituted ‘family entertainment’.