Revealed: how green ideology turned a deluge into a flood

Somerset saw the floods coming. The Environment Agency should have, too.

15 February 2014

It has taken six long weeks to uncover the real hidden reasons why, from the West Country to the Thames Valley, the flooding caused by the wettest January on record has led to such an immense national disaster. Only now have the two ‘smoking guns’ finally come to light which show just how and why all this chaos and misery has resulted directly from a massive system failure in the curious way our country is governed.

Because I live in Somerset, I first became aware that something very disturbing was going on back around the new year. As it became clear that the flood waters on the Somerset Levels were beginning to rise dangerously high for the third year running, I set out to find technical experts who could explain just what had gone wrong.

I discovered what I was looking for in the members of a small task force set up by the Royal Bath and West agricultural society, which from the mid-18th century had organised the effective draining of the Levels, after they were first reclaimed from a marshy wilderness by Dutch engineers in the reign of Charles I. These farmers, with long practical experience of working with the local drainage boards, along with an eminent engineer who chairs the Wessex flood defence committee, were in no doubt as to why in recent years the Levels have become subject to abnormally prolonged and destructive flooding.

The problem began, they said, in 1996 when the new Environment Agency took overall responsibility for managing Britain’s rivers. These men had been alarmed to see a sharp decline in regular dredging. The rivers have always been crucial to keeping the Levels drained, because they provide the only way to allow flood waters to escape to the sea. Equally worrying was how scores of pumping stations which carry water to the rivers were being neglected. And although the drainage boards were still allowed to operate, their work was now being seriously hampered by a thicket of new EU waste regulations, zealously enforced by the EA. These made it almost impossible to dispose sensibly of any silt removed from the maze of drainage ditches which are such a prominent feature of the Levels.

But all this got markedly worse after 2002 when the Baroness Young of Old Scone, a Labour peeress, became the agency’s new chief executive. Dredging virtually ceased altogether. The rivers began dangerously to silt up. The Baroness, who had previously run the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England, talked obsessively about the need to promote the interests of wildlife. She was famously heard to say that she wanted to see ‘a limpet mine put on every pumping station’. The experts I was talking to had no doubt that this apparent wish to put the cause of nature over that of keeping the Levels properly drained was eventually going to create precisely the kind of disaster we are seeing today. Their message as to what needs to be done couldn’t have been clearer.

First, they wanted to see a resumption of dredging those choked rivers. Second, they wanted responsibility for managing the Levels to be handed back to those local bodies which kept them effectively drained for generations, without having the EA constantly on their backs.

So compelling was their message that I conveyed to our Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, that he should visit Somerset to get a first-hand picture of what was to be done. He was as impressed by what these practical experts had to tell him as they were by how quickly he got the message. After speaking to other local representatives the next morning, he gave them six weeks to come up with a workable action plan. And if only he hadn’t then been snared into a media disaster, when unexpectedly confronted by a mob of shouting protesters crowding so densely around him that he couldn’t even get to the back of his car to don his wellies, he could have quietly returned to London having pulled off by far the most effective practical initiative yet to have emerged from this appalling mess.

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Already, however, so much damage had been done by the excessive flooding, for which there could be no quick fix, that, as ever more farms and villages had to be abandoned, the man-made disaster escalated into a full-blown political crisis — taking on a further dramatic dimension as similarly catastrophic flooding began to threaten the Thames Valley.

We had the great and the good converging on those flooded Somerset villages from all directions: a visit from Prince Charles, carried along the floodwaters on an improvised throne; the hapless Lord Smith of the Environment Agency being yelled at by irate flood victims; David Cameron flying in by helicopter; Nigel Farage being regaled by residents in a local pub, Nick Clegg waffling as ineffectually as ever. With Owen Paterson rushed off to hospital for a serious eye operation, we then had Fatty Pickles trying to give the impression that he was now in charge, lashing out at Lord Smith.

But while this media circus and the growing crisis along the Thames have been occupying the headlines, assiduous researchers have finally been uncovering those ‘smoking guns’ which explain how this disaster has come about. The first was revealed by my long-time collaborator Richard North, a real EU expert who, by combing through scores of official documents, unravelled the story of just how Baroness Young had been able to get her way in shifting her agency’s priorities towards promoting the interests of ‘nature’ over those of farming and people.

A key part in this had been played by those EU directives which govern almost everything the Environment Agency gets up to — including two with which Baroness Young was already familiar when she presided over the RSPB — setting out the EU’s policy on ‘habitats’ and ‘birds’. But just as important was a 2007 directive on the ‘management of flood risks’, which required ‘flood plains’, in the name of ‘biodiversity’, to be made subject to increased flooding.

This was just what Lady Young was looking for. She had already been giving lectures and evidence to a House of Lords committee on the EU’s earlier Water Framework directive, proclaiming that one of her agency’s top priorities should be to create more ‘habitats’ for wildlife by allowing wetlands to revert to nature. As she explained in an interview in 2008, creating new nature reserves can be very expensive. By far the cheapest way was simply to allow nature to take its course, by halting the drainage of wetlands such as the Somerset Levels. The recipe she proudly gave in her lectures, repeated to that Lords committee, was: for ‘instant wildlife, justadd water’.

In 2008 her agency therefore produced a 275-page document categorising areas at risk of flooding under six policy options.  These ranged from Policy 1, covering areas where flood defences should be improved, down to category 6, where, in the name of ‘biodiversity’, the policy should be to ‘take action to increase the frequency of flooding’. The paper placed the Somerset Levels firmly under Policy 6, where the intention was quite deliberately to allow more flooding. The direct consequences of that we are  now seeing round the clock on our television screens.

The second smoking gun, which explains the other half of the story, and why we are seeing a flooding disaster not just in Somerset but also on the Thames and elsewhere, has now come to light thanks to the Whatdotheyknow website which specialises in publishing the results of Freedom of Information requests. The Environment Agency’s response to an enquiry as to why the Thames has also not been properly dredged since 1996 reveals that this was because the new EU waste regulations of that year made regular dredging ‘uneconomical’.

They made disposal of silt dredged from rivers by local landowners so complex and expensive that it became much more attractive to take advantage of the ‘financial incentives’ given to ‘conservation schemes’. This was exactly what those farmers had found on the Somerset Levels.

So, at last laid bare, has been the hidden background to our floods disaster. Aided by that wettest ever January, it has been brought about by a synergy between ‘green’ ideologues here in Britain and an array of legislation from Brussels which has to guide policy in every EU member state.

Even in Holland there have been fierce rows over proposals to dismantle some of the dykes which protect the 29 per cent of that country below sea level. But in no nation has this ‘green’ ideology found such a sympathetic response as in Britain, where the senior officials of the EA — 14 of them earning more than £100,000 a year — have long been more swayed by those Agenda 21 doctrines of ‘sustainability’ and ‘biodiversity’ than by any practical concern for the needs of people, homes, businesses and farmland.

The overwhelming lesson emerging from this disaster is that it has been made far worse than it needed to be by a catastrophic policy failure. When Lord Smith weakly tries to complain that this was only because rules set by the Treasury wouldn’t allow his organisation to spend £4 million on dredging the river Parrett, which flows through the Levels, the victims of the policy point to the Environment Agency’s willingness to see £31 million spent on allowing the sea to flood hundreds of acres of prime farmland on the nearby Somerset coast, to create another habitat for birds.

In Somerset alone, quite apart from the Thames Valley, the eventual cost of this disaster is already estimated at well over£100 million. If this cost also includes the drowning of countless ground-nesting birds, hedgehogs, water voles and badgers which the policies of Brussels and Baroness Young have made inevitable, then, even on their own terms, the case for root-and-branch reversal of such a crazily self-deluding policy becomes overwhelming.

But how to disentangle ourselves from this mess, when we are committed by law to obey those EU rules, is another problem altogether.

Christopher Booker is a columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and was the first editor of Private Eye. He lives in Somerset.


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Show comments
  • Richard Lewis

    Tree belts on the quantocks and mendips will also help a little….they take up very little grazing land

    Dont believe me? Come to Wales and see how little flooding happens where there are tree belts in places (slows the speed of drainage into the lowlands)

    • Kubizek


      “Contrary to popular belief, forests have only a limited influence on major downstream flooding, especially large-scale events. It is correct that on a local scale forests and forest soils are capable of reducing runoff, generally as the result of enhanced in filtration and storage capacities. But this holds true only for small-scale rainfall events, which are not responsible for severe
      flooding in downstream areas. During a major rainfall event (like those that result in massive flooding), especially after prolonged periods of preceding rainfall, the forest soil becomes saturated and water no longer filters into the soil but instead runs off along the soil surface.”

      • rtj1211

        That article you quote is authored by those in Indonesia.

        Are you sure that the sorts of tropical monsoons you get over there are really representative of UK rainfall??

  • Foeu

    Yet another reason, as if more were needed, to leave the EU stop overseas aid and start looking after our own country.

    • Richard_Spain

      How right you are, but D.C. is incapable of making any sort of decision. As usual, it was Labour in power for most of the time, nobody noticed anything and now the Tories are in, they have to sort out the mess but the present incumbents don’t have the faintest idea about governing and D.C. dithers about from one decision to the other and back again. The E.U. is killing the U.K. and most of the other European countries. We should get out and soon.

      • edlancey

        “D.C. is incapable of making any sort of decision.”

        He’s good at pointing though, when the cameras are rolling…

        • cremaster

          Yes, and he has a wonderful range of “I’m the boss” hand gestures.

      • global city

        DC is fully behind the EU, the EA and the ‘green agenda’… he is an internationalist and social democrat.

        • Richard_Spain

          And an *rs*h*l*!!

  • ohforheavensake

    Right- so the fact that these climate systems are hitting France and the low countries; the fact that, in the US, freak ice storms are causing disruption as far south as Alabama: the fact that Australia, last year, had its warmest year on record (and that 2013 all in was the fourth warmest year there’s been)- all of this is the fault of the EU?

    And closer to home: don’t you think that government cuts in flood protection might have had just a teeny-tiny bit to do with the floods?

    • Troopstorm

      you haven’t read the article have you? i would suggest that you start at the top, and read it all the way through. then come back to us.

    • rtj1211

      The EU didn’t cause the climate, it caused the preparedness for climate events to be compromised.

    • grutchyngfysch

      Insofar as public spending goes on flood defences, yes, ohforheavensake, the government should be held to account. But read the article: this isn’t *just* about the expenditure of public moneys. In practice, the rules on dredging have not only ensured that the EA’s “cost-benefit analysis” discounts it (though, having read a number of their reports now, it’s worth noting that they explicitly spell out conservationist reasons for decision making far more frequently than economies made), but that local farmers and land-owners are unable to do so *themselves* out of their own finances.

      In an environment like the Levels, the impact of that shouldn’t be underestimated – after all, it has been managed without consistent public funds or governmental interference for centuries. Likewise, it is essential to remember that the EA has long prided itself on its commitment to tackling, charging, and (where it deems necessary) seeking the prosecution, of anyone who breaks its laws on “waste dumping”. When that’s fly-tipping, I’m sure we’re all grateful: when it’s a centuries-old tried-and-tested managment of land by the people who live on it, the virtues of the EA’s zealousness are less clear.

    • global city

      No. The temperatures were only REPORTED to be the hottest in Australia… doesn’t stop lies being regurgitated.

  • OriginalChris

    Bravo, Christopher Booker and Richard North. This should be circulated far and wide. We seem to have this Fawlty Towers “Don’t talk about the War” mentality with regard to the EU amongst most politicians and journalists. Thank goodness for the internet, and the potential for the truth to reach the electorate.

    • AlfLondon

      I think what should be circulated far and wide is that when measured by the number of homes flooded or by the number of human casualties, the flooding we have seen this year barely registers as a historically significant event (compare with the 1953 floods for example or even the 2007 floods). Indeed, even the extent of farmland flooded in the Somerset Levels this year is exceeded almost fivefold by the amount that was under water in 1919.

      Given that we have had the wettest January for 270 years yet only 5800 properties are flooded, might we proclaim that the Environment Agency’s management of the situation has been an enormous success? Or maybe I should ask on what grounds could we state that it has been a failure?

      As for the idea that a lack of dredging is the cause of the floods (and that its return is the solution) may I point readers of this article in this direction: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-continued-flooding/

      • AlfLondon
      • cremaster

        Well, the article contains a series of flimsy excuses concocted by partisans to justify EU policy.

        Ola Holmstrom even tries to bring up the red herring that a river has a “small storage capacity” Everybody knows a river is not a storage vessel, so why did she mention it?

        Dredging/clearing of ditches and rivers has worked satisfactorily for hundreds of years, and only a dolt would deny it.

        • AlfLondon

          ‘Well, the article contains a series of flimsy excuses concocted by partisans to justify EU policy.’

          Please tell me, how do you know these people are partisan? It sounds like you are just making this up without any evidence because you do not like what they say.

          So how about I find you a Eurosceptic Conservative MP who says dredging is not the solution just for a little more proof? Well funnily enough Richard Benyon has just written an article arguing exactly that: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/13/beware-politicians-pretending-armchair-hydrologists

          Do you really think he is just saying this to justify European policy? He is hardly a saint with the greens either, so you can’t argue that he is trying to defend them either.

          • grutchyngfysch

            This is sort of a reply to cremaster as well – of those three opinions, that of Falconer is the most reliable. You’ll notice too that he isn’t denying that dredging has an effect, but rather that it doesn’t have a permanent effect and can be quite short-term. Actually, his suggested solution looks pretty sound and seems to have been well received in the expert community in general – but it’s critical to note that it would also be an expensive project, and if there’s one thing that academia has taught me, it’s that academics are rarely switched on to finances. In that sense, without a detailed study of the costs, it’s very difficult to compare like with like. A programme of dredging with an upfront capital cost of (at the highest estimate) £4m and £200k per annum subsequently might well look more favourable than a generic consideration of dredging.

            Ola Holmstrom on the other hand works professionally to support the EA – indeed, most of his employment comes from that direction judging by his public profile. Whilst there is clearly no evidence to suggest he would deliberately mislead anyone, or that he isn’t technically competent, I wouldn’t expect him to be an obvious voice of criticism of the EA’s SFRM2 framework, or the surrounding environmental legislation.

            Also note the far-more speculative tone of his opinion: “you will more than likely increase flood risk in Bridgwater”

            Except, as I outlined below, specific modelling in the area shows that this wouldn’t be the case.

            So in other words, we have a professor who has actual expertise in the area, but who isn’t actually as critical of dredging per se (merely its efficiency compared to other proposals – including his own expensive one); an opinion that seems so undetailed and generic it’s not worth rebuffing; and an opinion that looks good on the surface, but on closer examination is speculative and from a source that is unlikely to be critical of the EA.

          • MrHarryLime

            Falconer goes much further than you suggest in his criticisms of dredging. He doesn’t just say it is a short-term measure; he says ‘I cannot see that dredging would make much impact’. It’s not at all the case that he simply prefers a different, more expensive solution. He doesn’t see dredging as a solution, full stop.

          • grutchyngfysch

            MrHarryLime – yes, he goes further, but it’s important to look at the reasons he gives. The first relates to hydraulic modelling – where he is applying a general theoretical understanding. In fact, though, there was local modelling (linked to multiple times in this comment thread) which allows us to reject the general in favour of the specific. The second relates to its efficiency over time – the effect is primarily *time* limited – “you’re back to square one”. This one is much more a matter of perspective, since modern watercourse management tends to prefer more “permanent” options to heavy year-in-year-out management. If management of watercourses is adequately maintained there’s no reason why (assuming cost is no issue) it can’t work by creating a dynamic equilibrium, as opposed to altering the conditions in a more dramatic way.
            Defenders of the EA were on much surer ground when they were arguing about cost-benefit analysis last week: even if one accepts that the cost-benefit analysis was fundamentally skewed – it was still the methodology for funding allocation in place.

            Again: if local studies had concluded the same thing as the experts quoted here, we might have reason to accept these opinions with the same unqualified support that many commentators here seem to give them. However, the fact is that there is a disparity between expert opinions – one local, the other theoretical. I’m afraid the former trumps the latter.

          • MrHarryLime

            You failed to summarise Falconer’s argument fairly or accurately, yet it was quite straightforward. I’m therefore assuming you have an axe to grind in this debate, and any further ‘facts’ you offer will likely be similarly skewed.

            You’re not Christopher Booker, by any chance?

          • grutchyngfysch

            MrHarryLime, could you explain why you prefer to favour an opinion given to the press over and above hydraulic modelling based on 50 years’ data from the local area which concludes that *any* dredging would result in the duration of flooding (and indeed depth) being ‘significantly reduced’; which expressly notes that the danger to downstream would only be ‘a marginal amount and will not decrease the standard of protection provided by the flood banks’?

            In fact, you seem to have an issue yourself reading my argument: you will see above that I said that Falconer’s proposed Bridgwater lagoon plan ‘looks pretty sound’ – and I stand by that. I think it’s a good idea – I simply note that it is also an *expensive* idea, likely far more expensive than the proposed dredging schemes, which, despite being predicted by the aforesaid modelling to have a significant impact on flood control, were dismissed as too costly.

          • MrHarryLime

            I haven’t favoured either opinion. I’ve merely noted your mendacity, which continues in your second paragraph above: I hadn’t criticised your account of Falconer’s lagoon plan, but your account of his views on dredging.

          • grutchyngfysch

            MrHarryLime – Let us take your reading of Falconer’s view then as being solely along the “no impact” line, instead of the qualified statement I read him as making.

            Let us then compare that assertion with the only source to my knowledge that actually uses local data to model the impact of dredging. Let us also note that this modelling takes into account many of the concerns raised in the opinions, and that it concludes by assessing the hypothesised impact on the 2012 flooding – the closest analogous fluvial event with which we can compare the present crisis.

            We should have to conclude, on the basis of that modelling, that Falconer would be straight-out wrong to assert “no impact”; that in fact ‘significant’ impact can be attributed, not only to the normal fluvial cycle, but also to mitigating the length of the 2012 flooding.

            The fact is, under your reading, Falconer would come out considerably worse off than under mine. Actually, though, I stand by my view that you have misinterpreted the context of his statement regarding “no impact” and overlooked the qualifications he makes. This means it is perfectly possible for me to recognise the general validity of his opinion notwithstanding the problems with applying it to these specific circumstances. And that’s really been the point: what you might *expect* to be the case in the Levels is not, on closer examination, *actually* the case.

          • grutchyngfysch

            Incidentally, to be clear – since this is a point that drives both the opinions above and a lot of the criticism of dredging – nobody on the ground has seriously suggested that dredging would outright have prevented the flooding (nor does the modelling suggest that). Rather it is about mitigation, and reduction of the time that floodwater takes to drain away.

            One fascinating touchstone is the extent to which people who know nothing about the Levels talk about “preventing flooding” – whether it’s to agree or deny that it’s possible. The Levels are kept at a high water, particularly during the Summer, *deliberately* in order to benefit the agriculture – controlled flooding is actually part of the historic management of the Levels.

            The minute that I see someone talking about “stopping flooding from happening” I know that, however smart they may or may not be, they are not familiar with the specifics of the area, and that fact alone tends to lead me to be sceptical about the certainty of their opinions.

        • mikewaller

          Anybody who still sticks with his own half-baked ideas when confronted by such a battery of expert advice is genuinely to be pitied. Indeed this is precisely the category into which Booker, Delingpole et al should properly be assigned. The signs of mania are clear from Booker’s article. His favourite bete noirs – the EU and climate change – get both barrels whilst the elephant in the room gets half a sentence as in “Aided and abetted by that wettest ever January…” Similarly that dreary old canard concerning the ” £31 million spent on allowing the sea to flood hundreds of acres of prime farming land on the nearby Somerset coast, to create another habitat for birds” is trotted out yet again in spite of Lord Smith having made clear that the money was spent to create a better line of coastal defence with the bird habitat a serendipitous bonus. Clearly either Smith is lying or Booker has entirely lost touch with reality.

          The harsh truth is that climate change is real. Only last night there was a report from the US informing us that pattern of the dear old Jet Stream has changed markedly over the last 30 years and is now the cause of increasingly wet winters and summers in the UK. As for the reason this change has come about, a modest increase in Arctic temperatures seems most likely.

          What is needed is a some serious grown up thinking rather than the granting of the fool’s license to Booker and co. in their fruitless pursuit of scapegoats. One thing that could usefully be done would be to offer folk living in low population, at risk areas like the Levels very substantial gratuities to move on to higher land, ideally purchased by the State at agricultural prices. In high density areas such as the Thames valley, God knows. Certainly no amount of dredging would have prevented the present tragedy. One thing I do remember was a programme on, I think, ITV about 40 years ago which dealt with the horrible experiences of Thame-siders during very serious flooding shortly after WW2 and the obvious folly of allowing the mass building on the flood-plane then underway. Can’t help thinking that a nice piece of retrospective legislation making the politicians, planners and developers involved personally liable for the consequences has a very strong appeal. After all, they had been warned.

          • DeadReckoning
          • mikewaller

            Yeah, and no doubt the meteor that did for the dinosaurs was just an oversized hailstone.

          • global city

            Please sort this out for all us dolts? Start with the basics, you know, the stuff about Co2 and it’s efficacy, then how this is used to build models that ‘project’?

          • mikewaller

            I treat the health of the planet in much the same way as I treat my bodily health. I have a blood test and I am told my PSA level is rising, I have a biopsy and am told that I have what is at present a mild prostate cancer. I discuss this with my GP and the prostrate specialist and factor in an excellent article by James Le Fanu from the Daily Telegraph. None of this makes me an expert in prostate cancer, but I do acquire a reasonable understanding and even more important, I form a favourable evaluation of the expertise of those with whom I am dealing.

            Ditto with global warming. From information sources as various as, for example, a very well written and nuance article I have just read in the National Geographic, comments made last week by a senior spokesman of the Institute of Civil Engineers, and the matter of fact comments made by an Oxbridge specialist in fungi about the effects GW is having on the plants he studies, I have come to the view that the great weight of intelligent opinion supports the scientific consensus on GW. Throw in the frequency with which abnormal weather conditions seem to have been appearing in recent years and, yes, I’m a believer. And such is the strength of my belief that it is most unlikely to be undermined by challenges from a former chancellor with the ego of a small planet, the effusions of a Spectator journalist whose only real strength seems to me to be writing TV reviews or the polemics of a guy who bends everything to his war against the EU.

          • global city

            Thanks for that, but I think you’re missing a vital point. I could have written it. Why do you think that anyone with a counter view to CAGW is ignorant, cavalier or a contrarian?

            As I have written lots of time, I, like most, just accepted the whole man made global warming meme. It was only after an illness that I decided to read more than the popular press. This was not conspiracy blogs. My intention was to gain a deeper understanding as it applied to my area of expertise, which is urbanism, as lots of the ‘solutions’ to urban renewal seemed to chime with a lot of the stuff being proposed as ways to cut carbon use…. compact neighbourhoods, density and mixed use, ‘liveable’ communities, etc.

            I was shocked to find that even just scratching the surface of the issue unveiled tons of stuff that just did not agree with ‘the consensus’ The more I scratched the more obvious this became.

            Even at the most basic level there is so much BS. The positive feedbacks, the algorithms, the manipulation of core data, the hockey shtick… and on and on.

            having also grown up being involved in lots of politics I also picked up on the intensely political nature of so many of the warmists mantras and diatribes.

            I judge from your response that you do not actually ever read anything that counters your received understanding of the subject, as this would just be pandering to kotchoilshillmurderers……etc?

            I would strongly urge that you indulge me and watch those videos, if nothing else. Even if you find nothing with which you can agree with, it will sharpen your understanding of the other side and their mindsets, as these are the top dog ‘sceptics’

            Using the deductive skills you outline in your post I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing to worry about, with regards to CO2 levels increasing in our atmosphere. That does not make me a shill, or a gobshoite, a contrarian or an ignoramus. It certainly does not make me an enemy of ‘Mother Earth’, though it may put me in the ‘enemy’ amp of some warmist idiot!

          • mikewaller

            Where I think you fall down is the sheer strength of my fallback position which might be entitled “what do we get if GW is acted upon yet proves to be based on faulty science?”

            My answers include:

            1. The moral basis upon which to pressurise the new economies into greatly reducing the amount of shit they are currently putting up into the atmosphere. At present, I think that, by reflecting sunlight back into space, this is the most likely cause of GW not quite reaching the levels initially predicted. If however, GW is non-existent, and the shit still goes streaming up, its hey to a pollutant induced nuclear winter.

            2. By acting on the assumption that that at least some element of highly localised, non-carbon based generation is an essential part of the GW counter measures, we finish up not quite so exposed to the terrifying consequences of losing the National Grid for an extended period as a result of several non-GW related causes that are perfectly plausible.

            3. We slow down the rate at which we are chewing up the planet.

            If, on the other hand, the climatologists are right yet we listen to you, all we finish up with is a bloody great mess!

          • global city

            But we are simply not ‘chewing up the planet’. That is the sort of baseless emoting that stops us being able to appreciate the great things that are happening, particularly with things like rising prosperity in formerly the shittiest parts of the world.

            The price being asked for the greenists ‘insurance’ is way too big, and is meant to be so, as the desire for so many involved in shaping climate policy is the diminution of industrial society.

            You try living that way if you wish, but I think that most would disagree with you.

            Raise prosperity. Allow third world countries to develop liberal markets.

            Leave the CAGW and misanthropic stuff well alone, as nothing is actually happening.

            poor people make many more babies…. let them grow their way to their own demographic-low time bombs and also improve their environment/living conditions.

            I think that my prescription for a more stable and sustainable world is much better than virtually every greentard’s involved in the issue.

          • mikewaller

            Please note the selectivity of your response to my posting. I gave three reasons for favouring the green agenda regardless of the merits of the GW case. The first was placing ourselves in a good position to pressurise the newly emergent industrialised economies to clean up their acts which at present has millions of their peoples walking around with smog-masks. The second, which should have been right up your urbanist street, was doing something the ludicrous dependence on huge power grids we have allowed to develop, particularly in our major conurbations. Yet you moved straight past these to start banging on about whether the Green’s thesis that we are chewing up the planet is valid. With this, I take the same stance as with the GW argument: waste is wrong per se and should be acted against regardless.

            However, at the personal level you should be very concerned at your headlong rush to my third argument as it seems to me that it is strongly indicative of your suffering from the dangerous condition now generally known as Delingpoleitis, itself a subset of Don Quixote Syndrome, both characterised by an overweening desire to tilt at windmills.

          • global city

            That’s an unfair distillation of my post. I criticised the parts of your post with which I disagreed. Some of the ideas you listed are logical and desirable.

            What my main point was meant to be, however, was that subscribing to the whole Green agenda demanded in order to ‘save the planet’ or even just mitigate rising CO2 would literally compel us to kill off industrial western society.

          • mikewaller

            The best response I can make to this applies to an awful lot of people on these lists. When somebody with whom you are in debate makes a good point it is always sensible to acknowledge it. Not to do so is both bad form and runs the risk that you will be seen as somebody simply incapable of yielding ground. As to the debate itself, I think that if the whole GW thesis proved to be misguided yet it had the effect of massively upping the extent to which individual households and facilities acquired reliable generating capacity, it would have done far more good than a whole host of less contentious scientific ideas.

          • global city

            Fair enough. I accept that.

            As far as environmental improvement goes however, I believe that we were well on the way to crafting good practice, if anything the CAGW mania sidelined everyone into that issue alone, leaving good environmental practice to suffer.

      • grutchyngfysch

        AlfLondon – have a look at the January 2013 report on the dredging of the River Tone, as it expressly sets out some of the expert concerns relating to the impact downstream based on *local* (rather than generic) modelling, and dismisses them as being insignificant.

        In fact, out of this cross-group study (and the subsequent September 2013 report for the Parrett, which I have only been able to read press report on, but which seems to say exactly the same thing) there was a clear majority agreement that dredging represented the best option based on the computer modelling.

        One of the great problems with expert views such as the ones in that press release is that they are being asked to comment on a specific case based on general expertise. There is no doubt that the issues raised *can* have a significant effect – but where there are local micro-studies that contradict the general view, they ought to be given greater credence.

        • AlfLondon

          Would you be able to attach a link to the report? – I’d be very interested to have a read. I know that the Environment Agency has to an extent backtracked on its original stance on dredging. And you certainly have a point that management schemes for river catchments need to based upon local knowledge rather than just broad theory.

          I’d be especially interested to know the reasons why the downstream impact of dredging was dismissed as not being significant. Usually, it is not practical to dredge along the whole length of a river (for one thing it encourages tidal surges) so when the water slows down closer to the sea, there is often an increased risk of flooding.

          I thought Richard Benyon’s piece was quite interesting: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/13/beware-politicians-pretending-armchair-hydrologists

          • grutchyngfysch

            Certainly – as I said, the full report for Sep 2013 isn’t available publically, although the Somerset Drainage Board minutes discussing it on a variety of occasions are available if you want a good perspective on reasoning from a perspective other than EA’s(include Iain Sturdy in the searches – he’s their chief engineer). The SDB, along with other groups in the Somerset (apart from the RSPB and the EA) have tended to dredge regularly in the watercourses over which they have jurisdiction. The biggest watercourses are EA-governed.

            One nice example is from Dec 10 where the SDB is clear that they are having to ‘keep up the momentum and pressure on the Agency’ – as well as noting that DEFRA guidelines looked quite promising – although obviously by this point it was far too little too late.


            The EA appears to have been a late convert to the need for dredging. If you read the March 2008 plan, for instance, they state quite clearly:

            ‘We are desilting rivers less than we used to, so that we can prevent further damage to the environment. We now consider this kind of activity more carefully and only do it if it is really necessary.’ (95)


            Dredging wasn’t even a part of 2010 Management Plans for micro-areas of the Levels (again all available from the SDB – I’m still reading through them, but dredging barely appears in a word search, and certainly isn’t used in the West Moor and Curry Moor plans that I’ve read).

            The Costs-Benefits for the Jan 2013 report are summarised here:


            Which contains the immortal line:

            ‘Dredging could be completed in one operation. However to satisfy environmental mitigation measures it may be necessary to do it in phases (e.g. one bank at a time). This will increase the costs.’

            Finally the summary of the hydraulic modelling (full access to the modelling is institution-dependent – although it has been discussed quite widely in the local press and if you’re really keen you can submit an FOI – I don’t know if public libraries have access or not).


            Note in particular paragraph 7 (Disbenefits) which discusses the very issues you and the experts raise – the concern that dredging might have a negative impact on banks downsteam – and dismisses fluvial increases as marginal, and tidal increases as insufficient to reduce flood protection.

            Just to be clear – I quite understand both your own and the panel’s concerns – they are generically legitimate, and have been investigated. I’m not for a moment suggesting that every criticism of dredging is unwarranted. However, the writing has been on the wall for some time in Somerset that dredging is the best means of managing fluvial floodwater – and it has been the EA who have hindered and resisted its take-up in part because of a genuine conservationist bias, and it part because the cost-benefit analysis is skewed by the cost of imposed charges relating to environmental regulations.

          • grutchyngfysch

            Sorry for the length of the post, but you seem like someone who would appreciate a more detailed approach over soundbites.

          • AlfLondon

            grutchyngfysch – Many thanks for the links and apologies for taking a while to reply. The EA model results do indeed make a persuasive case for dredging on the Parrett and Tone and it is a shame that the details the EA provide are so limited – surely there is more say? I will certainly be very interested to see what the long-term response is by the EA once the current floods subside.

          • mikewaller

            Is not the Achilles Heel of your argument its implicit steady state assumptions? If things remain much as they have been, local knowledge can be of great value. However, if the underlying parameters start to shift, that value is rapidly debased. I live in a small river-side village. When we first arrived in 2000 an old farmer, then in his 80s, who had lived here all his life, was one of our neighbours. When asked how high the river might be expected to rise in flood, he pointed to a flight of steps just across a road from the river, and said it would never cover the first step. Yet in 2007, it rose a good foot above that.

            Against this background, what dredging may or may not do is really a side issue. The core argument is the reality or otherwise of global warming. If – as I do – you believe that the GW case is being made with ever-increasing plausibility, then the only answer in Somerset is to get the people and the farming effluent on to higher ground so the farmers only have to deal with flooding and not that plus very unpleasant contaminants. If, on the other hand, you are a Bookerite, sit tight and dredge away, a choice to which all I can say is: the best of luck!

          • grutchyngfysch

            mikewalker: it’s an important point and it is one that was taken into account in the report I’ve been pointing people to – insofar as the 2012 floods are used as a measure of extreme events. I will expect to see a similar report that models the long-term data in relation to these floods once they’ve subsided. There is, of course, an issue with using long-term data in a rapidly-changing situation, but it is better than using no real data at all, and relying on a solely hypothetical model – especially in circumstances like those of Levels where the landscape is highly artifical (traditional theoretical models will tend to hold much better for “normal” river systems, which is what they’re developed from in the first place).

            I’m not a “Bookerite” as you put it, in the sense that anthropogenic climate change is well established across numerous case-studies (also, from the perspective of historical geography, it’s possible to demonstrate man’s impact on climate right the way back to the Neolithic period, albeit in a much more limited way). I remain cautious regarding long-term predictive modelling, however, as there have been too many substantial changes in the last few decades (to my mind) to justify the *degree of certainty* that many commentators and some scientists place in the *predictions*. That said, if you substantially alter the climate (from whatever source) you can’t expect there to be no consequences – so I am not a “denier”, and it seems prudent to take serious precautions (distinct from useless subsidies for green fashions) for sea level changes. A “prediction sceptic” maybe, but one who is prepared to be satisfied if the evidence supports the prediction.

            Depending on the options used, however, even in the case of significant sea rises, there is no reason to suppose that abandonment is the only option; and if we are expecting greater rainfall too, then management for fluvial floods should keep dredging topical. But I’m not a “dredging panacea” person – it clearly isn’t appropriate in all cases; all I’ve been trying to point out is that the best available research specifically into the efficacy of dredging in the Levels suggests that it would have had (and presumably still would have) a significant impact on reducing the amount of time that floodwater remained standing in extreme events (as well as mitigating flooding more generally),

          • mikewaller

            From a people perspective, although the duration has been a particularly awful aspect of this crisis, the over-riding problem is the actuality of being flooded. Whether it lasts for five hours or five weeks, your furniture and furnishings are ruined, your insurance massively compromised and your home horribly contaminated. And it is human waste coupled with a range of agricultural contaminants that cause the the final problem. As I cannot see that dredging would help prevent flooding except in the most marginal of cases, getting the people out seems to me the best idea.

            As for “environmental fads” I am now very cross that I didn’t give Booker a good kicking over that. By chance, I had direct experience of the American ice storm that seemed to kick all this off. We got out on the first day but the follow ups we received were all about the consequences of the resultant power outages. Two things stood out, the massive threat to those homes which had no alternative form of heating and the massive dismay of folks who found that they had no means of recharging the batteries essential to electronic technology when the power supply is down. I am not an engineer, but I used to work for the Central Electricity Generation Board and can think of several very plausible ways in which the Grid could be disabled for a considerable period of time. To me, failing to get as many people as possible to equip themselves with some personal generating capability is an act of crass irresponsibility; and as generation by hydro-carbons is too subject to supply problems and the attentions of armed thieves, systems from the renewable options seems to me the better bet. They might even make a useful contribute to our routine needs.

          • grutchyngfysch

            mikewalker: it’s true about the personal cost – I used to live in an area that flooded regularly, and although my house was fine, it is always wearying to have to strip out carpet and redo wiring etc. There will also have to be some kind of review as to the appropriateness of septic tanks in the area, I suspect. However, as I’ve said elsewhere on this thread, the Levels are kept at a fairly consistently high water level for agricultural reasons, and in fact the annual (fluvial) flooding can be beneficial by depositing silts – *so long as it doesn’t sit around*, especially if it reaches the point where the water deoxygenates, as it pretty much wipes out plant life. Actually, from an environmental perspective it’s pretty dreadful too – the EA usually has to pump floodwater with chemical treatments if it’s stood for too long, otherwise it can kill whole river systems.

            So whilst I agree that flooding couldn’t be prevented outright – the speed by which the water recedes is absolutely vital to people’s livelihoods (and most of those affected are farmers). It’s not just mitigation for the sake of mitigation.

            On fads, although a tangent, I’m not against the use of generators per se, although it’s an expensive solution if you’re thinking of installing permanent ones. Likewise, I’m not against renewable energy per se, it’s just about whether it’s appropriate – it’s a fantastically good option to use Solar panels in Israel and Egypt, for instance. Ironically, the Bridgwater area would be a good place for tidal energy generation – but I recall reading something in one of the reports (can’t remember off the top of my head which one) that the EA had decided not to go ahead with installing it. Can’t honestly remember the reason that was given, so I don’t want to give the impression that that decision was a dubious one.

          • mikewaller

            The point I am making is that when power is lost for any significant period of time, the pros and cons of different forms of generation cease to be a simple matter of cost comparisons. If the only way of providing any form of long-term robustness to the loss of the grid is highly localised generation, then that is what we have to go for if we are not to risk facing an absolute catastrophe.

            It is not just a matter of floods flushing raw sewage in to homes. I live about 30 yards from a sewage pumping station which takes sewage from its former direct discharge into our river and pumps it up to a sewage farm on higher line. No power, no pumping and once the station’s wells are full the entire downstream river system would get severely contaminated. Ditto with water which in very many cases needs pumping to keep topping up its gravity feed systems. Obviously these are very inconvenient truths which which to grapple, but if the worst happens and no provision has been made, the results will be catastrophic. And if you want some glimpse into what that might mean, read the review on page 37 in this week’s Speckie of a book describing what happened over five days in the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

          • Julian in Somerset

            grutchyngfysch: A lot of sense there. On the southern Levels flooding doesn’t have to be prevented – as we all know, it’s normal, so trying to prevent it would be impossible – just mitigated to within ‘normal’ levels. One minor technical point which doesn’t detract from what you’ve said – it’s actually the death of the land plants ‘drowned’ by inundation that causes the deoxygenation of the water, not the other way around. Bacteria decaying them have a high old time and use up all the available oxygen – you’ve probably come across the term ‘biological oxygen demand’ but others may not have. The end result is the same, and as you say, hydrogen peroxide has to be mixed in with the water being pumped off to reoxygenate it and avoid killing all animal life downstream. But if too much is loaded into the river at one time, too much peroxide remains unchanged in the water and does the same thing. So it has to be pumped for only a few hours a day. The EA did this during the summer floods on Curry Moor in 2012, and came in for more flak locally because it took longer than anyone would have wanted. I can’t see them being allowed to reoxygenate this time – politically unacceptable with both large and small Ps – so the lower stretches of the Parrett and Tone will probably be sterile for a while. As will the land, of course – what was left on Curry Moor that summer was a dead, stinking wasteland which took weeks and months to recover.
            Both you and mikewaller are also talking sense on the power generation front, though that is really more properly part of a much wider discussion about how we as a species change and innovate to deal with the depletion of fossil fuel stocks. It was a parliamentary select committee, not the EA, that put the kybosh on the proposed Severn Barrage scheme (thankfully, given the potential effects on the hydrology of the Severn estuary, and the already flood-prone areas further upriver). The smaller-scale schemes seem to have been axed in favour of the big engineering project which itself failed to pass proper scrutiny. In general I would agree with mikewaller that a large number of small-scale schemes would be preferable, for a number of reasons – quicker to get up and running, probably cheaper in total, and certainly less vulnerable to disaster or sabotage (and with less serious impact).

          • grutchyngfysch

            Thanks for the correction on deoxygenation – I’m afraid my knowledge runs out pretty quickly on the biochemical side of things.

            Interesting too to hear about the Severn Barrage scheme losing out due to funding tactics misfiring. I have some sympathy for the EA on that front – since they do not ultimately set the rules by which they are obliged to play. On the other hand, it is clear from having read through the recent minutes of the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium that other interested bodies have been trying a more proactive approach with DEFRA; and I still think there is sufficient basis, if only in the EA’s past publications’ choice of emphasis (not just on rhetoric, but the kinds of detailed reports they commissioned) to make the criticism of “birds over people” not entirely unfounded.

            That said, I diverge from Booker in thinking it a deliberate conspiracy. What seems to me to be at work is a kind of unconscious “culture”, where certain concepts of what good environmental management are privileged over others. The bird sanctuary is a pretty important touchstone for showing how this doesn’t have to be counterproductive to other ends (and as others have mentioned above, the tidal defences in the region have been far better). My own preference would tend towards local residents’ needs being prioritised, and I’d certainly tone down the restrictions and prosecutions in favour of developing more lasting working relationships. That’s also a subjective viewpoint, of course, but one which I suspect is easier to justify (at least until birds develop mass media).

            On the renewables front, I’ve got no problem with workable renewables where people want to install them – it’s more where public money is used to encourage inappropriate technology simply to allow politicians to appear “green”.

          • Julian in Somerset

            Interesting to note that Defra use conservation benefits as one of a very short list of criteria by which to judge and evaluate VFM for EA projects, so the emphasis on those elements in EA publications is likely to be at least as much a wish to show they are doing their job by meeting the criteria laid down by their funding body as actively pushing a conservation agenda. Taken out of that context they could look a bit more gung-ho than they actually are.
            In any case, it depends on the angle from which you are viewing. If most or all other stakeholders are concentrating on human aspects of an issue, then the few making a case for wildlife have to make it even more strongly to strike some form of balance, and will appear to stand out from the crowd. If someone is only really concerned with the human aspects of an environmental problem, or actively hostile to ecological issues, as Booker comes across as being, then they will view even the merest squeak of a comment ‘for’ wildlife as being ‘against’ people. It is of course nothing of the sort. His views on the EU, and those of some other commenters, should be viewed in the same vein – as you say, they are seeing conspiracies where there are none.

          • grutchyngfysch

            That’s one reason why I am strongly in favour of having separated “stakeholders”. I noticed that the 20-Year plan is adopting a fairly transparent approach as regards reporting different agencies’ responses to the key issues. In that context, I quite expect the RSPB to be defending birds: it’s their raison d’etre; and actually I expect the EA to be defending the environment. I prefer decision making to be locally-accountable – but as you say it it doesn’t follow that being pro-environment must mean being anti-people; or indeed that being pro-people necessarily implies the wholesale destruction of the landscape: most people will not deliberately want to trash the area they live in or go out of their way to annihilate fauna.

            The EA does seem to have an issue with the way it handles its relationships, though – and I say that both from the perspective of other agencies’ comments, and the EA’s own assessment that local relationships remain “a challenge” (to use their own language). In that respect, I think there’s a problem with the structure and a problem with accountability, and purely from the view that very often historically the EA will primarily, if not exclusively, commission conservationist reports before it does anything else, I think it’s more than just an attempt to reflect DEFRA’s management-speak. But as I say, I kind of expect that – the point that needs to be revisited is perhaps the extent to which they hold sway over decision making, or else the degree of scrutiny they receive over matters *other than* conservation. That, clearly, is an issue for politicians to pursue – and so, it follows, a failure that originates (at least in part) with them.

    • Liberty

      Politicians don’t talk about the EU because it is boring to most people. It is boring because so few people understand just how much the EU controls us; immigratioin, trade, environment, agriculture, law, foreign policiy and much, much more. The irony is that it is the very same politicians who lie about, hide, ignore or actually don’t know about the extent of the EUs power of us.

      • Ken

        ” The irony is that it is the very same politicians who lie about, hide, ignore or actually don’t know about the extent of the EUs power of us”.
        That’s not irony, that is criminality and/or treason.

        • Halfamonkey

          Yes. It is treason, plain and simple. From Wikipedia:

          Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].”

        • global city

          but at least they are on the inside of the conspiracy. The oens who drive me nuts are those MSM journalists who collude with the intent to keep the EU story a non-story

  • OriginalChris

    Very glad to see that the Daily Mail has written something about the Thames dredging, or lack of it – apparently so a rare mollusc would not be disturbed. Couldn’t make it up.
    (EU waste regulations make dredging uneconomic, but R North demonstrates how they make their calculations for cost effectiveness, and all is not as it seems).

    Also see excerpt from http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84689
    EU policy: just add water

    “….To justify them in its own terms, though, the EA has undergone some elaborate financial manipulation to demonstrate that reverting to “nature” is cost effective. To do so, it artificially inflates the cost of flood prevention maintenance, while downplaying the costs incurred through flooding.

    An example was given by my Drainage Board source. To dredge a 1.2-mile section of the Parrett, they got a quote of £7,500. For five miles dredging of the same river, the Environment Agency claims it will cost £4 million. By then assessing the economic cost of flooding agricultural land as zero, it is then very easy to show that flood prevention is not “cost effective”.

    • AlfLondon

      If you read a little more widely about dredging (rather than just what you see on the Daily Mail) you might realise that it never has been a solution to flooding. For example with regard to the Somerset Levels: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-continued-flooding/

      I should imagine that on the Thames there might be concerns that dredging could increase the risk of damage to structures such as bridges and river banks/walls (if indeed there is an increase in the river’s discharge). Hence it would be impractical to dredge in many parts of London. Also I doubt residents of west London would be happy if areas in Reading or Maidenhead were dredged as this would naturally increase the flood risk in their communities especially where the river becomes tidal.

  • David Webb

    Any chance Baroness Young’s pension will be cancelled? If not, why not?

  • Peter Stroud

    Excellent article. It is high time that we cease to give the Green movement so much influence over our government’s policy. The manner in which CAGW has influenced energy policy is a clear example.

    • OriginalChris

      The supreme irony is that the Green movement and related organisations are given very significant sums of money by the EU to pursue their green agenda, which happens to include lobbying the EU. Undemocratic at best. I see it as a corrupt practice.

  • Colin

    A signal example, amongst many, of what happen when common sense and real world experience are replaced by fanaticism and activism, in the domain of public policy.

  • revkevblue

    Well said Christopher Booker, At last, the truth behind all the smoke and mirrors.
    The Baroness Young and her EU tree huggers need to be brought into the light and made to answer for the damage they have inflicted upon this Country.

  • AlfLondon

    As is not uncommon with Christopher Booker the errors start in the first paragraph. Although he is correct to point out that January was the wettest on record it can hardly be called an ‘immense national disaster’. In terms of number of homes flooded, number of deaths, or even amount of farmland under water there have probably been dozens, if not hundreds of flooding events that have been worse in the time since Southern England last had a wetter spell of winter weather 270 years ago.

    The Somerset Level floods in 1919 flooded an area of some 265, 000 sq km (only 65, 000 sq km this year) and of course 300 people lost their lives in the floods of 1953 in a tidal surge that was lower than what we saw a few months ago (when I don’t think anyone died). Even the floods in 2007 saw almost 50,000 more homes flooded than we have seen this year. The astonishing statistic given the weather we have had recently is that only 5800 homes have been flooded. But of course none of this is convenient for the purpose of Booker’s article.

    As for the argument that a failure to dredge the rivers is the cause of the floods in Somerset and the Thames Valley, this is a spectacular display of wilful ignorance. One of the problems with the River Parrett is that it is tidal for 27 miles in land (as far as Oare). Dredging the river channel deeper would allow more water to flow upstream during the high tide so the capacity of the river to hold more water during times of high rainfall would not necessarily increase.

    There are also plenty of other reasons why dredging would be ineffective (see here: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-somerset-flooding/). But, it is a shame that the views of these hydrologists will probably reach a smaller audience than Booker’s poorly researched, politically-charged polemics. However, isn’t it slightly embarrassing that a Cambridge educated man writes articles with so many errors?

    • NewburyExile

      These are hydrologists who have not set foot in Somerset, have never studied the history of the Somerset Levels or the Thames and have had neither the professionalism or basic good manners actually to speak to any of the people who have lived on the Somerset Levels or by the Thames all their lives. Their opinion based on no practical evidence whatsoever is worthless.

      • AlfLondon

        ‘These are hydrologists who have not set foot in Somerset, have never studied the history of the Somerset Levels or the Thames and have had neither the professionalism or basic good manners actually to speak to any of the people who have lived on the Somerset Levels or by the Thames all their lives.’

        You have asserted a lot without here without any evidence at all. How do you know all of this? In any case it is hardly a valid reason to dismiss another person’s opinion.

        ‘Their opinion based on no practical evidence whatsoever is worthless.’

        Well much of hydrology is maths so it would be difficult to explain in a short article. As they are professional hydrologists I would assume that they calculated the extra capacity (discharge) a river might be able to provide if it were dredged, and also calculated the capacity the river would need to hold in high rainfall events, and concluded that the dredged river would still fall woefully short of the what would be required in high rainfall events (such as in 2012 and 2013/14).

        There is quite a good explanation from another hydrologist here: http://therivermanagementblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/scramble-for-blame-serves-no-one/

    • cremaster

      The reason why the disaster is not as great as historical ones is because of the expertise gained in water and land management. Practical expertise, that is, not mathematical modelling.

      But, it is still a disaster more so because it was actually caused by ivory-tower bureaucrats who simply went against the successful practices of preceding decades and decided to try something “new” -i.e. not dredging.

      Now the chickens have come home to roost, so you can polemicise all you like against Booker – we still know why you’re here, you EU apologist.

      • AlfLondon

        Oh dear, I’m not an EU apologist. In fact if there were an EU referendum I’d very likely vote for leaving.

        In any case could you explain why you think being sceptical of dredging necessitates being being pro- European anyway? I’d be interested to know a little more about your reasoning.

        • Brimstone52

          The evidence is overwhelming. Over the last 300 odd years dredging has worked.The vast majority of that long before computers were invented.

          • lobotomisedjournalist

            I’m not on either side of this debate, but this response just seems misinformed. If in 1919, 265,000 hectares were flooded – approximately five times the 65,000 hectares this year, then obviously dredging didn’t work to prevent a flood five times as bad as this year with less rainfall.

          • Brimstone52

            The cause of the flooding is pertinent. The 1919 floods were by seawater. The present floods are from rainfall.

            Much preventative work has been done since.

            An excellent try at clouding the issue, but it’s a fail.

        • Clytamnestra Dunge

          and if there’s such an election in the rest of europe you can be sure we’ll vote for england leaving.
          it is almost funny how you guys seem to think we would desperately WANT to keep you in our club. i suppose all the inbreeding on that little island of yours isn’t good for the brain: you haven’t been pulling your weight for a looong time, so please leave before we have to kick you out.

          anyway, a little bit up in these comments it is explained that the ‘eu outlaws dredging’ sentiments is bs.

        • cremaster

          Well, so you claim, Alf. And you’re not WEG, are you, despite him/her/it giving the same link to an article nobody cares about?

    • grutchyngfysch

      The 1919 floods have been much cited following the EA’s use of them in a press release, but it’s worth noting that, like the 1953, 1857 and 1607 floods, they were the result of tidal inundation.
      Given that you understand the importance of differentiating between tidal and fluvial events, perhaps it might be worth considering why the EA – who surely are also aware of the differences – felt that they could use such flooding so prominently in their defence.

      • Julian in Somerset

        One reason may be that both Booker in this article and The Daily Mail in a similar one have had a go at the EA for spending large sums on a project on the coast ‘to create habitat for birds’. The Steart Coastal Marsh Project is (as Christopher Booker says) aimed at creating an extra area for sea water to flow into, but its primary aim is flood defence, to counter rising sea levels. The planned area
        is within the estuary of the Parrett, so should reduce the impact of tidal surges along the river, which as someone else has already pointed out is tidal for miles inland, as far as Oath and well past Moorland. Remember that the tidal range in Bridgwater Bay, into which the Parrett flows, is huge – over 13 metres (or 40 feet in old money) on the highest spring tides, and that’s without the weather
        intervening. It is a shame that the project is running well behind schedule (because of repeated problems caused by very wet weather over the last two years, ironically) – some of the worst rainfall in recent weeks has coincided with spring tides (including a 12.8 metre one), so a fully functional Steart Coastal Marsh may have helped.

        That it will become a nature reserve is a secondary benefit, and the costs related to that will be small compared to the total cost of the project. A residents’ group was consulted all the way along the line, and the farmers who are losing some of their land are generally happy because it will help protect their homes and their remaining land from flooding in the future.

        Sorry for the length of this post, but I hope it gives readers more detail and context on something glibly dismissed by both Booker
        and the Mail as just a bird reserve.

        • grutchyngfysch

          It’s an excellent point and worth highlighting. The only reason I query the 1919 floods is *how* they are being used, when they are rolled out as a kind of rebuffal to the idea that the well-dredged past had bigger floods. Which of course it did – but not of the kind that are to do with the merits or demerits of dredging (save, a limited impact on when tidewater recedes).

          Of course, when you focus on the EA’s successes with coastal protection in the Levels (elsewhere may be a different story) it does produce a genuine irony. If the EA had treated farmers more like partners, and had worked directly to help them manage the maintenance of their own land if they couldn’t justify spending public funds (interestingly – this is what is now being mooted), the flood waters would have still risen, but I suspect the ill feeling would have been well within normal tidemarks. I don’t know whether this will become a textbook example of hydraulic modelling, but it will certainly become a textbook example of how institutions can alienate the very people they are supposed to serve.

          • Julian in Somerset

            Fair comment – I suspect the EA, given the flak it is taking from all sides at the moment (rightly or wrongly, or both), is using every card in its hand to defend itself, some more accurately or effectively than others. I confess to using your mention of the tidal inundation cause of the 1919 floods as a convenient ‘in’ to make what I think is an important point (and I’m glad you think so too). It is worth noting that the worst-affected areas are either along, or just upstream of, the tidal stretches of the Parrett and the Tone (which is also still tidal above its confluence with the Parrett near Burrowbridge). When the big sluices at Oath and at New Bridge on Hay Moor are closed to prevent tidal water heading further upriver, then no river water can get further down either, of course, and nor can water escape through the system of valves from the moors into the tidal stretches. The Levels north of the Polden ridge, though flooded in places, are also still (just) within the bounds of what is considered ‘normal’ flooding for the area. Any revised flood management plan will have to take into account not just the unusual circumstances of the Somerset Levels and Moors, but also the variations within that area. As I am sure you will know and understand, one size does not fit all.

  • WEG

    Nice article. Shame its completely wrong about dredging… http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-somerset-flooding/

  • Domlingus

    Oh dear Mr. Spectator, your allegations that UKIP has failed to publicise the truth are as is common with your reporting both biased and inaccurate, not to mention hopelessly out of date. Once again Ukip has pipped you to the post!


  • Rockin Ron

    I live on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens. It is a vast, broad, flat floodplain, mostly below sea level, similar to the Somerset Levels. I read that in 1953 massive flooding around this area led to the loss of hundreds of lives. As a result, efficient pumping stations and local drainage boards were revived. We have had lots of rain like the rest of the country, but we have not had hardly any homes flooded this time. Why? Largely because local bodies take their responsibilities seriously and there is regular dredging and efficient pumping. It’s not rocket surgery, but it did take a major disaster for effective action. I hope this is not repeated in the Somerset Levels.

    • AlfLondon

      The 1953 floods were actually caused solely by a tidal surge overtopping the sea defences rather than heavy rainfall causing the rivers to flood (which is the principle cause in Somerset). I think I am right it stating that the tidal surge we saw in December 2013 was actually higher than the 1953 surge but there were no casualties – due to much better sea defences.

  • WEG

    In 1998 2000 houses were flooded in northampton alone. Don’t remember any ministers visiting northampton. Or some tosser writing about it in the spectator. I sympathise with farmers and millionaires from Somerset and the Thames but they need to get some perspective and man up.

  • Chris Kimberley

    yeah the wettest winter in 250 years is because of the EU !

    • manicbeancounter

      It does not matter how extreme the weather gets. What matters is how we cope and adapt to the consequences. The Somerset levels, like the fens and much of the Thames Valley, only became habitable due to drainage schemes.

    • Well Done

      LOL Chris it is NO such thing as the “wettest winter”. EU/EA inspired wilful neglect certainly makes it look that way, don’t it?

  • andycanuck

    And in Australia environmental regulations imposed by well-meaning Greens stop people from clearing scrub-brush from their properties as they had always used to do leading to worse bush fires.

    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  • Brimstone52
  • Brimstone52

    The real tragedy is that by allowing the flooding, the wildlife that the
    zealots wanted to help have either been drowned or forced to flee.
    Truth really is stranger than fiction.

  • Albin

    The greens seem to be perfectly right that we’re getting wilder and wilder weather. They seem to be wrong that expensive 50 year long carbon reduction policies are more “urgent” than expensive hardening of the civic infrastructure to protect impact zones.

  • drydamol1


    Whilst we are fed dross from Wind Farms are our Saviour to Austerity Measures are a necessity the only
    People who get anywhere near the actual truth is within meetings of the G20 or
    Davos .G20 to discuss Social Policy and Commodity Pricing and Davos to discuss
    our overall Financial Situation .

    Brussels Dictates 70% of our Laws so we are Governed by
    three separate entities all with their own agendas to be adhered to .

    Our Regime know they and we are living a lie but as long
    as we are controlled they ca get away with the deplorable .They think we are
    quite satisfied by catchy phrases and serious sounding Government Departments
    or groups .A prime example is the Environmental Agency and Cobra the emergency meeting
    of the cabinet to discuss serious emergency matters .The way both have handled
    the Flooding crisis Cobra ought to be renamed ‘Dead Parrot’ and the EA renamed
    the AA the ‘Aquaphobia Apologists ‘ .

    If there was the
    slightest trace of ‘Sovereign Loyalty ‘Cameron a multi- millionaire would
    donate the dubious cash for favours he has accumulated using our properties Number
    10 and Chequers to set up a Flood Fund .

    Cameron has that many hidden agenda’s it makes one wonder
    whether he is a mixed clone of Blair Mandleson and Howard .If you thought Blair
    was a Smiling Assassin Cameron the Descendant of a Slave Trader has nothing on
    him .


    • cremaster

      Hmm. Looks a bit fishy to me this one. False flag, anybody?

  • Vernon Evenson

    Vernon Evenson

  • Vernon Evenson

    Can hardly believe that I find myself in contention with great Booker having read the Eye for the last forty years but there are serious errors in his arguments. The rivers do not drain the levels. The rivers are banked higher than the levels in their lower reaches. The low lying ground – the Levels – are drained by the ditches and the water escapes to the sea via the sluices which should be open as the tide falls and closed as the tide rises. Since the EA took over these have been abandoned in the partly open (“summer”) position so that just a fraction of their flow exits and comes right back on the rising tide. Same problem on the Thames. There are forty eight locks between Richmond and Cricklade which must be managed and operated properly so the water escapes to the sea. When the EA took over management of the Thames above Richmond and dispensed with the lock-keepers (see Eye passim).
    The water MUST get to the sea where it belongs – dredging is not the highest priority, fixing the machinery is.

    • cremaster

      Fair enough, but if you don’t dredge the rivers, you make the problem worse at low tide, don’t you?

  • T Groves

    Well the first thing that comes to mind if it ant broke don’t fix it ,for years the levels have been maintained & drained by a series of pumps & ditches across the levels which many were then were emptied into the rivers, this has been a long time & very effective way of preventing the very thing that has been allowed to happen now ,every thing points to the historic fact that since the EA with its wild life first agenda has been on the scene things have gone very wrong ,of course they will put up a load of crap wrapped up in study’s & making excuse after excuse rather than go back to the way things were but facts are facts this has never happened before, yes flooding has but not to this extent just look at Baroness young’s comments I believe made in 2007, she would put a limpet mine under all the pumping stations.
    The arguments will go on the blame will be thrown around but why don’t the politicians just hand back the management of the area to the drainage boards ,they have been asking for the EA to dredge certain places but this has not been done in the mean time EA have come up with all the excuses money not forth coming from the treasury but the EA estimated 4 million pound to dredge where the drainage boards estimate around £8000 that’s for about 1 & a half miles .
    The fact is the EA in its present form is not fit for purpose ,front line staff are first class but can only carry out orders, the management need a Bloody good sort out yes something that is BROKE & does NEED FIXING.

    • global city

      What people seem to fail to grasp is that the ‘neglect’ was quite deliberate. They hope that so much damage has been caused that we will have no option but to abandon the area to nature.

      Job done.

      Yet another ‘beneficial crisis’ for the EU

  • AlecM

    The big secret underlying the failure of the EA to prevent flooding of the Somerset levels has been leaked by an anonymous insider. It’s to do with the water supply system developed in WWII for the Royal Ordnance Factory and taken over by the EA in 2008 when that factory finally closed:http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/forget-agw-somerset-was-flooded-by-e-a-incompetence/

    Forget AGW: Somerset was flooded by E.A. Incompetence

    “We advised that the Huntspill be automated and the Kings Sedgemoor Drain be pumped and made strong representation to that effect.

    But every meeting with the EA ended in frustration as they never sent a single seriously knowledgeable Drainage Engineer to any meeting. The Levels Boards understood the issues and tried to get the pumps installed.

    It didn’t happen.”

    PS If you look at Google Earth for Burrowbridge, and move south east, you see a parallel drain which eventually enters the King’s Sedgemoor Drain to the East of Westonzoyland. Because the KSD is silted up and is not pumped properly, this overflow has ceased to work, meaning the flooding which used to be distributed over the Levels, is now concentrated in the Parrett and Tone regions.

    • Jambo25

      Please read my posting above. This flooding is so bad not due to EA weirdness or incompetence (Although there may be some of that.) but because all the political parties have cut the spending on drainage system maintenance over the past 20-30 years. Culverts, field drains, channels etc simply have not been maintained. One exception would be the awful Baroness Young. She deserves all the criticism she gets.

      • Well Done

        Jam, the dredging was hobbled by the EU/EA. Your constant efforts to divert blame to lack of spending ignores where that lack of spending got its start. We’re seeing the same thing in the Fraser River basin. Any “lack of spending” is due to the simple fact that dredging is no longer ALLOWED. You’re asz backwards on this.

        • Jambo25

          No it wasn’t. That simply isn’t true. The EA, under the lamentable Baroness Young may have taken its eye off the ball but it wasn’t ordered not to dredge by the EU. Take a look at the posting from our Dutch poster, Clytamnestra Dunge.
          Spending on flood prevention and other environmental protections wasn’t exactly lavish under Labour and was cut by about a third by the Coalition in 2010

          • cremaster

            Why can’t dredgers dump the harmless waste on farmland?

            EU DIKTAT!

          • Jambo25

            Yet they still go in for large scale dredging in the Netherlands, the Scheldt Estuary (Belgium) and the Po Valley. All are in the EU. Why don’t they obey this nasty EU Diktat?

  • Q46

    So who goes to gaol?

    Who gets sued for negligence?

    • cerberus

      Hahahahahaha …..

      I have to admire your sense of humour!

  • Ipsmick

    So today I have a headache not because last night I drank too much, but because of the damn’ EU. Is there no end to its nefarious meddling?

  • cerberus

    ” … senior officials of the EA — 14 of them earning more than £100,000 a year.”

    Did somebody actually say earning? Not the word I’d use I’m afraid.

    • Winston_from_the_Ministry

      But it’s still drastically underfunded, right? Right?

      • Jambo25

        Apparently, despite the present floods the EA is still getting rid of staff. Complaining about feather bedded public sector workers is always a good way to take attention away from the more hare brained failures of our political class, particularly the right wing ones.
        The son of a close friend graduated with a very good degree in Chemical Engineering. He then achieved a PhD in Environmental Engineering and Protection and went to work for SEPA, SEPA is the Scottish equivalent of the EA and pays roughly the same salaries. He loved his highly responsible job but was paid so little that he couldn’t afford to get married. He, therefore, took the first private offer he got. He now earns 3 or 4 times what SEPA paid him and gets various non-salary benefits.
        This is fairly common across public service . Highly skilled and qualified workers simply do not stay and there are perpetual shortages of them in the public sector. However, its obvious that the failures of the public sector must be down to feather bedding.

        • Winston_from_the_Ministry

          Lovely anecdote.

          • Jambo25

            I think its fairly common in various branches of public service. When I used to work in education we used to have dreadful trouble in holding onto well trained IT professionals. That was in the Lothians. A couple of friends who were in charge of schools in the Stockbroker Belt, round London, found things even tougher. Their schools became their own IT trainers because of the rapid turnover in IT qualified people who would get trained up then, after 6 months or a year, move into the much better paid private sector. My son has always worked in either the private sector or the voluntary sector but he has had dealings with numerous local authority planning departments. Despite having some excellent people they very often find it difficult to represent the public interest due to lack of resources and rapid staff turnover. I always find it amusing how the Tory right fetishise market forces but not when it comes to the labour force in the public sector.

          • Well Done

            Doesn’t take advanced education to figure out that lack of dredging and maintenance will cause flooding. None of that was started by the “right”. You’re trying to bait and dodge the OBVIOUS evidence that the flooding has been directed by the EU and those who insist man’s CO2 is causing “climate change”(TM). But, go ahead. Put yourself on point. Not my problem.

          • Jambo25

            No. It was caused by deliberate under investment in infrastructure maintenance by the whole UK political class and I had already noted it happened over a long period of time.

        • Well Done

          LOL again with the “right wing” bashing. How much are you being paid to post such shash? The problems in the now-flooded areas began precisely when the EU/EA mandarins took charge. Pretending a couple years of “right wing” caused all the problems is so stupid, you can’t possibly be putting it forth on your own. You’re a shill.

          • Jambo25

            I’m not left wing. I’d never vote Tory but I’d class myself as centre-right Christian Democrat. I vote SNP. You might also care to look at my other postings where I note that “all parties” were responsible for underspending on maintaining water channels, drainage systems, culverts etc. Its been going on for decades

  • Ged Essex

    Christopher Booker is wrong about climate change not being a problem or not existing as well as white asbestos cement being safe, and it now seems wrong about flood management. Is there no limit to this man’s ignorance. Brooker, “the patron saint of charlatans is again spreading dangerous misinformation”.

    • Hamish McDrung

      So you are an expert yeah?

  • Jambo25

    My son is a consultant planner and his views on the present screw up are not what I suspect many Speccie readers want to see or hear.
    1) Far too many houses are being built on flood plains and have been built on flood plains. Forget the BS you’ve been getting in the media. The practice is still going on and is, if anything, intensifying.
    2) The EU is not some eminence grise forcing honest Brits to do bad things. Dutch planners, local councils, governments and flood controllers all work under the same EU rules as the Brits and they dredge and flood control to their little hearts’ content.
    3) The EA is being used as a scapegoat here. It is grossly underfunded for the level and amount of work it is asked to do. There is also a lack of money in the general area of environmental protection and disaster prevention. Spending has gone down since 2010.
    4) Once disasters do take place there is, once again, a lack of resources to help. Governments of both parties have cut back or held steady the resources devoted to this field.
    5) People in general planning, disaster relief and civil defence are never particularly sure what to do as politicians of all parties will no longer cooperate but score points off each other and seem to change arrangements every few years. The result is the confused, half cock response seen in the West Country and Thames Valley.
    In France there are centres of local authority with pre laid plans and the authority to get things moving quickly with sufficient resources at their disposal. Where do we have such figures as Prefects in this country?

    • Hamish McDrung

      Best explanation yet! Thankyou Sir!

      • Jambo25

        What disturbs me about the coverage of this and other topics is the way in which they seem to be covered through the lens(es) of 1 or 2 permitted points of view dependent on the ideologies of the MSM reporters. The truth on the floods is that they have been an accident waiting to happen.
        Lack of infrastructure investment; he wilful neglect, even destruction, of centres of local authority and direction and an inability to draw up coherent long term planning.

    • Clytamnestra Dunge

      i am dutch. so reading the above article i was already mentally typing up your point #2.
      these politicians might CLAIM that ‘sorry, my hand is forced by EU-regulations demanding we stop centuries-old practices, i really have no choice but to let the rivers dry out and the land turn into swamp’.
      but just think about that for a moment and see that for the BS it so obviously is: all other countries would have been held to those same rules, yet they have no problem keeping their dykes intact. when did the uk turn into the eu’s lapdog, blindly following brussel’s orders when other countries hesitate?

      sorry, but england is doing this completely to itself, the problem is that to little money is set aside for the not very flashy task of keeping the polders dry. and frankly we couldn’t care less about your internal problem, just give us scotland and we’ll be out the door 😉
      talk is everywhere that you guys have been gearing towards bankruptcy for decades but kept creditors at bay by presenting a nice facade of financial growth en (ecological) responsibility. please do not fool yourself into believing that the EU will HAVE to bail you out in the end: nobody likes helping greece and at least they have the euro.

      • Jambo25

        I am a Scot who loves visiting the Netherlands. I spent a lovely week with my wife, for our 40th wedding anniversary, in Amsterdam last summer. We visit Amsterdam on a fairly regular basis to take in the art collections and just generally soak up (Perhaps the wrong term.) atmosphere.
        I agree with all you write. The EU is used, amongst other things, as a whipping boy to blame all of Britain’s troubles on by some of the loonier right wing elements. The problems in Britain are actually caused by the incompetence of the political class, the grotesque over centralisation of power and authority and a naïve belief in ‘market forces’ pushing short termism and lack of necessary investment.
        I don’t know whether it is possible but as a Yes to Scottish independence voter I’d love to end up in the EU and out of the present London based set up.

        • Well Done

          NO, Jam. It started in the mid ’90’s with a cessation of dredging. “right wing” this or that is not the issue. EU regulations are part of the problem. An EU-inspired EA is part of the problem. Academic-inspired “return to nature” ideology – even if that “nature” dates back to the 17th century – is part of the problem.

          • Jambo25

            If there was any element of that it clearly wasn’t due to the EU as the Dutch, Belgians et all dredge away to their hearts’ content and they are also in the EU.

      • Druth

        And a thank you for that kind word in our time of difficulty from one of our European cousins.

    • Well Done

      Jam, the EU and EA are exactly to blame. The problem dates back a long way before 2010. Look at the EA maps, man! This flooding was planned! Lack of dredging and maintenance is NOT the fault of the “right wing”. It’s amusing and informative to who the voices are, willing to blame the storied “right wing spending cuts” for something that has been caused precisely by heinous, even treasonous policies from the hard left.

      • Jambo25

        There were spending cuts. EA personnel were got rid off and are still being got rid off.

  • EllisWyatt

    The problem is but a mirror image of the drought issue in California, where government policy has become to restrict water storage and funnel huge amounts of water away from human uses of any kind on behalf of “the environment.” The parallels are uncanny, and there is a common theme on both sides of the pond: disassemble the “unnatural” improvements made by man over generations to mitigate against certain fluctuations in the weather and their inevitable consequences on the natural environment and return to a “natural state.” Such state, Thomas Hobbs reminded us, was to make life for man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Perhaps it is time for some to start questioning the whole “return to nature” romanticism.

  • rtj1211

    The most obvious explanation currently is that rich city dwellers wish to drive the price of rural property down by bankrupting the locals, so they can buy them out at the bottom of the market before getting the taxpayer to reinstate all the cuts that they called for to drive the rural property market down in the first place.

    Or is that just a conspiracy theory??!!

  • global city

    but, sadly, the MSM are not with you Christopher… the facts are still hidden, as in unreported or pushed to page 76… of the heavies’

  • Hamish McDrung

    This is pure Globalism-“Marxism with cash”. Flood out the wicked human property and land owners and “Save the Planet/birds/voles. Herd the humans into cities for greater control- It is called “Agenda 21”. The creeps that dd this should be prosecuted!

  • Mervyn

    What an amazing debacle! But now that we know what has contributed to the flooding disaster, will the British people stand up against the ‘eco-bullies’ in the UK and in Brussels? Also, should some body or some individuals be formally held accountable for gross negligence? And should compensation be sought from Brussels so as to send a message that before regulations are approved, the full impacts must be known before hand, and that if this is not done, the consequences will be criminal action against the EU bureaucrats responsible for such regulations?

  • One Thirsty Bear

    While many socialist demands arise from envy, socialists also demand that subjective judgements of merit replace objective morals and utility.

  • Colin Spencer

    One can sense some reason in the decision of the Ukraine government to turn away from the EU and align their country’s economy with Russias. Common sense prevailed, but a large part of their population seems to have been seduced by the socialist ideas of the EU states – most of which are practically insolvent.

    • Well Done

      Yes, Colin, I really wonder why it is that so many in Ukrainia feel joining the EU is worth fighting and dying for. Something is wrong there. What have they been told? What have their leaders been offered for delivering the Ukraine into the hands of EU bureaucrats? Frankly, my suspicions began when I heard the leader of the opposition is a former boxer. Such persons tend to have a, shall we say, damaged perspective that tends toward confrontation rather than reason and understanding. That is my honest experience.

  • hdb

    More strong stuff from Christopher Booker but I’m more than a little skeptical about his scientific credentials here. It is a hugely complex issue as Richard Benyon, the Conservative MP for Norwich, points out:

    Dredging is not necessarily the solution as that can make flood surges much worse downstream. Especially when we already have the problem that modern farming practices mean water runs off much quicker than in the past.

    As a taxpayer I have to ask why we should be paying to save the farmland and houses of a small number of people who have decided to take up residence in an area that is low lying and historically prone to these sorts of events. If Christopher really is an economic liberal why does he want the taxpayer to bail out (quite literally in this case) private individuals at massive cost?

    • Well Done

      No. Centuries of dredging meant few floods. Only a decade of no dredging has meant plenty of floods. It’s not complex at all. Who pays you to obfuscate?

  • formonitoring

    You seem to ignore the fact that it’s a matter of record that the EA did the maximum amount of dredging it was allowed to do, under the government’s right-wing economic cost-benefit rules, which demanded a 1:8 benefit ratio, and thus permitted only £400,000 dredging – which the EA completed.
    That would suggest that an austerity government simply abandoned the peripheral areas of the UK – knowing it could then blame the EA, and get an anti-greens story out of the resulting disaster.

    • Well Done

      LOL sport, I’ll give you benefit of the doubt that you don’t realize how full of it you are. Funding isn’t the point. There is plenty of funding for dredging. Blaming the “right wing” is so insane I’m thinking maybe you don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. The problem started in the mid ’90’s, a fact you see in earnest to forget. Buy a clue or get out of the way.

    • cremaster

      Why would the self-proclaimed “greenest government ever” WANT to get an anti-greens story?

      You seem to ignore the fact that EU law prevents dredgers from putting the silt back on farmland – making it prohibitive to dredge.

  • Druth

    A bunch of eco-loons and remote unaccountable foreign bureaucrats, a political elite who to a man have never done a proper days work, let alone actually dug a ditch, start dictating to the people of Somerset about an issue which has been successfully managed locally for decades and ‘quelle surprise’ this is the outcome. But quick, look over there, climate change (formerly known as global warming, until it didn’t).

    What sort of Labour Party member rejoices in the title of ‘Baroness Young of Old Scone’. It’s beyond satire.

  • brossen99
  • InsidetheEnvironmentAgency

    An ex-EA manager put the internal green conflicts succinctly in his comment the other day: John: “You can consider me one of those senior EA manager – worked in various functions for 9 years, the last 3 as a AEM before leaving in 2011. Most functions outside of FCRM are over funded and inefficient (sustainable places, biodiversity, groundwater, fisheries, even EM itself). At least a fifth of the budget could be re-allocated to higher priority projects by reducing these functions without any detrimental impact to their ability to meet legislative requirements. Unfortunately, the Pitt Review from the 2007 floods was rushed, so didn’t go far enough, otherwise, the EA would not again be in the position it is in. That being said, there are some very fine, hard-working and dedicated employees.”

  • Phaid

    Good article, as someone who lives on the Medway and watched the neglect
    and abuse of the river by the EA first hand, I am very glad these
    problems are being brought to light.

    What worries me is what will happen when we do get extreme rainfall. This year has not been extreme, not if you look back through the records. In 1968 we had 8
    inches in a day, in ’31 five inches in two and half hours, in ’24 nine inches in a day, in ’20 five inches in two hours, in ’17 nearly ten inches in a day (I could go on and on). Our rivers currently cant cope with this rainfall in a month.

    Doubtless, the next time we have rain like that and towns are being devastated the drongos will say it’s global warming and insist on more weeping willows to slow down the flood water.

    By the way, on the subject of trees. An oak can soak up to 110 gallons a day in the summer, virtually nothing in the winter. Anyone interested should do the maths of comparing tree traspiration to rainfall. If we planted an oak tree every 40 foot over the entire country (recommended spacing for oaks) they would have taken
    up less than 5% of the rain that fell the day before the Christmas floods, if it was summer and we had waited a hundred years for them to grow.

  • http://freakingenius.info/ Tristam Sculthorpe

    My heart goes out to those who’s lives have been destroyed by such a bungle. The news is actually worse than most could imagine. Sea levels will continue to rise as the glaciers melt. How will England deal with sea levels 60′ higher when the glaciers are gone from Greenland.

    • Well Done

      Tristam, your mindset is part of the problem Sea levels are NOT rising due to anything man has done, and certainly not any more than one would expect from a planet emerging from an Ice Age. Don’t be part of the problem, sport.

    • cremaster

      I very much doubt that you have a heart at all. Still waiting for those sea levels, you lying Green scumbag.

      • http://freakingenius.info/ Tristam Sculthorpe

        If you still don’t understand about rising sea levels then you have your head so far up your ass that you can’t read newspapers, magazines, internet screens and you can’t hear radio or TV.

  • Anteaus

    Crazy waste regulations create problems for businesses of all kinds. The problem is that as a business, it’s illegal to even transport a scrap item of equipment to a recycling yard without special paperwork. So, instead of being recycled, items like redundant computers pile up in the attics of firms all around the country.

  • http://freakingenius.info/ Tristam Sculthorpe

    I guess there are close minded climate change deniers everywhere. All I can encourage you to do is buy oceanfront, as much as possible, as soon as possible.

    • cremaster

      They are stupid aren’t they?

      Hang on, what’s THIS:

      The tourist industry does not believe in the downfall of the Maldives. Thirty additional new luxury class hotel complexes are planned for the next 6 to 10 years, not counting the countless smaller homes. Tourism is currently increasing 20% annually. Whatever is really behind all the rising seal level scar stories, huge commercial investors are obviously dismissing them. If anything, these scare stories are providing lots of publicity for the island’s tourism industry. Already more than 1 million tourists are flocking to the islands every year and Nasheed [prez of the Maldives] says the island can handle many more.

      From http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/59088

      Argue with planners and investors, you pillock.

    • philbest

      You mean like Al Gore does?

  • http://freakingenius.info/ Tristam Sculthorpe

    I would never argue with some anonymous troll on the internet. What I did was draw a conclusion and make an appropriate statement:All I can encourage you to do is buy oceanfront, as much as possible, as soon as possible. Obviously I forgot that the tourist industry and huge commercial interests are rife with celebrated scientific genius.

  • Francisco Ringoli

    Many quacks have begun to argue that there is no need to limit the power of government because it has been chosen with democratic methods.

  • http://freakingenius.info/ Tristam Sculthorpe

    Absolutely. I think all climate change deniers should do exactly what Al Gore does. I bet there are countries in the world with a smaller carbon footprint…

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