BY ROBIN JACKS
It was disappointing that Philip Hammond only made a cursory reference to the ‘countryside’ in this week’s budget. The Treasury’s coffers would be in an even more parlous state of affairs without the UK’s thriving tourism, farming and food industries.
There were hopes from the countryside, amongst other announcements, for infrastructure guarantees on flooding defences. The countryside is on the frontline when it comes to preventative measures against flooding. Yet no such announcements materialised. The issue still seems up in the air and preventative measures materialising as infrastructure projects, such as in Pickering and the Calder Valley , seem few and far between.
In the Netherlands where low lying geography has forced policy-makers to be more hard-headed, the Dutch anti-flooding systems are clear and accountable locally, regionally and nationally. This is the opposite of the state of affairs here in the UK where we have been reduced to a sport of buck-passing between Ministers, councils and the Environment Agency. There, water is the starting point when it comes to strategic, spatial and economic planning. Here – excuse the pun – we are sitting ducks.
Problems like drainage and flood plains are considered at the outset and not regarded as after-thoughts in the Netherlands. Furthermore, flood-risk management is based on a river’s whole catchment area to make the most of natural resources and better protect downstream communities, irrespective of artificial local government boundaries.
The natural environment is a priceless asset when it comes to protecting the whole country’s economic infrastructure – Pickering’s ‘Slow The Flow’ project has proved this and mini-dams are now being considered for the Calder Valley’s upper reaches.
By focusing on preventative measures in the countryside, flood defences on the outskirts of towns might be able to withstand rising water and not be ruined, with the resulting costs to the economy. All it requires is for Mr Hammond to make a belated link between town and country.
That has clearly not happened yet.