Flood risk planning review is needed to prevent another 'nightmare before Christmas'

Ramsey golf course and village flooded after Lode bursts banks..Ramsey / Bury, HuntingdonThursday

Ramsey golf course and village flooded after Lode bursts banks. - Credit: © Terry Harris

A county-wide review of flood risk planning is needed to prevent another 'Nightmare before Christmas', according to Labour's candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Councillor Nik Johnson said the frequency of river dredging, roadside drain clearance and the effects of an increased run-off from new housing developments need to be analysed following flooding across the district.

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While commending the community-minded spirit of those who aided homeowners that were left underwater on Christmas Eve, he argues that residents should not accept the conditions as 'the new normal' for Cambridgeshire's rivers and streams.

Several flood warnings were in place in Cambridgeshire after Storm Bella hit the region on Wednesday evening (December 23) and left roads impassable. 

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service received 336 flood-related calls - with March, Doddington, Alconbury and Ramsey among the hardest-hit areas. It even meant part of the A14 had to shut on Christmas Eve. 

Cllr Johnson said: "The enormity of the problem cannot be underestimated and needs a different approach.

"Our local councils - town, district, county alongside the Combined Authority - working collaboratively with the Environment Agency and other third sector groups need to commit to an independent review of recent events and commit to a future plan for flood risk planning.

"With multiple organisations all having some part responsibility in all these areas, it will only be by approaching the challenge in the same spirit of cooperation as exemplified by our threatened communities over the festive season that will we be able to immunise ourselves against a second wave in the future."

While he describes the floods as "the final act in a year of drama and Covid tragedy", Cllr Johnson said that, as quickly as the river levels rose in the 48 hours between Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, "we witnessed an even faster response that kept our riverside communities protected despite the overwhelming sense of impending crisis".

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The candidate for Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority added that the list of individuals, local companies and organisations that "went above and beyond, working through the night, soaked to the skin, delivering sand bags to homes under threat - all in very challenging circumstances - is a long one.

"This outpouring of compassion and cooperation is a badge of honour that our communities can be justifiably proud."

He said the community-minded response to the floods has reminded people of "what can be achieved in acute crisis when we all work together as one.

"Yes, there was exceptional rainfall but so many other factors come into play - frequency of dredging of the river and roadside drain clearance, the increased run-off from new housing developments, adequacy of river defences - to name but a few.  

"Our communities have shown the way - let the legacy of these dreadful events be the collaboration which will help prevent a future Nightmare at Christmas."