Throughout late 2013 and early 2014, much of England was hit by some of the heaviest rain that we have seen for years. Kent was among the areas seriously affected.
Shortly before Christmas 2013, Julian organised one of his periodic river inspections, with the Environment Agency to examine the state of the River Stour below Canterbury. For the reasons much discussed since the floods – shortage of money and EU regulations on the protection of wildlife habitats – the dredging of rivers has virtually ceased up and down the country.
Nevertheless, Julian found that, in the weeks before the inspection, the local EA did a good job within their limited budget. In particular, they had trimmed back trees wherever they intruded into the narrower sections of the river and were slowing the flow. Much of the work had been done just before the visit, so it was a timely investment as none of the vulnerable properties along the Stour were flooded, although the water came to within inches of the top of the sandbags.
During the flooding, Julian visited several sites of actual and threatened flooding along the Stour and Nailbourne and, although the potential for disaster was considerable, the British resolve was impressive. The impact of the heavy rain was largely mitigated by the work of Canterbury City Council, the Environment Agency, Kent Fire Brigade, and Southern Water. Throughout the crisis the agencies were responding to emails as late as 11pm and operated a seven day week, as well as manning an information centre in Bridge. Their combined efforts saved hundreds of houses from the flood; in 2001 with a smaller volume of water far more houses were flooded. A small number of properties along the Nailbourne, especially in Bridge and Patrixbourne, were flooded despite their efforts, but a combination of statutory agencies and volunteer effort coped wonderfully. The greatest star was the Council’s semi-retired chief engineer (and legend) Ted Edwards, whose name continually popped up for the work he was doing, supervising the distribution and deployment of sandbags and co-ordinating pumping.
In future, though, it is essential that changes are made in the Environment Agency. Julian pressed the then Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson, for more resources for dredging and less emphasise on new habitats. He continues to take a close interest in the Stour and the Nailbourne and in the essential work which Southern Water is doing to update sewers in their valleys. Affected residents can apply for government funding for flood prevention work to make their houses more capable of withstanding future flooding. The fund is being managed by Canterbury City Council and can be found here. Please note however that only certain properties may qualify.