Towns are in drought but preparing for flooding

time:2023-06-09 04:51:17source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center3

The West Midlands may still formally be in a period of drought, but as winter approaches, preparations are already under way for rain and floods. As the Environment Agency holds its flood action week, BBC News speaks to those hit by flooding about their hopes - and fears - for the future amid fresh warnings of life-threatening dangers.

Irene Buxton's home in Bewdley, Worcestershire, floods almost annually. The last time was in February this year.

"We had just gone to bed and you could see the water was coming up... then all of a sudden there was an almighty crash," she said.

"There was like a tidal wave which came all the way up the road, up to [the house] and that's when we got out of bed, got dressed, grabbed some stuff and got out."

Heavy rainfall in the winter meant the river Severn swelled to dangerous levels in February, eventually overtopping defences in the town once more.

Mrs Buxton says she loves her home and does not wish to move. As a result, she has used her own money to purchase water pumps and other domestic flood defences, but each time water blights her property, there is further expense to repair the damage.

Eight years ago, Mrs Buxton launched a flood action group for the town, calling for better protection.

Her vision could soon be realised, as the Environment Agency (EA) is developing £6.2m permanent flood defences for the vulnerable Beale's Corner area, due to be completed by 2024, although there is another winter before then.

The provision is set to replace the existing temporary barriers which have been repeatedly breached by floodwater in recent years.

The devices are among a number of measures being introduced as part of the EA's six-year national flooding plan.

Mrs Buxton said while getting the barriers had been a "battle", they left her more hopeful for the future.

Down the river, Severn Stoke in Worcestershire is getting a £1.8m flood embankment scheme, with work due to begin in spring.

It aims to protect 18 homes, 14th Century St Deny's Church, the village hall and the 500-year-old Rose and Crown pub.

Andrew Goodall, the pub's landlord, said his business had flooded three times in three years.

Before floods arrive, he normally wraps the building in a damp-proof membrane, but although the venue as a result only gets an inch of water inside, it is enough to close the business.

Nine weeks were lost last year amid repairs costing thousands of pounds.

Mr Goodall said he was still apprehensive despite the new defences.

"It is going to be one of those once the bund is eventually in - we are going to sit and wait and watch," he said.

"Do I do any protection that year? We will have to wait and see."

He added: "This is a campaign that has been going on 15, 16 years and it has taken that long to get to this point.

"I think you are always going to worry about it even with the bund there. I probably won't get rid of all my sandbags just yet."

From 7 to 13 November, the EA is holding its flood action week, urging people at risk of flooding to be prepared.

The campaign was being held, it said, "amid increased extreme weather events brought on by the climate emergency".

This year, the UK experienced its highest ever recorded temperatures and most of the country, the EA said, was still struggling with drought. But it added despite that, unexpected flooding could occur at any time and communities were warned not to be complacent following this summer's dry weather.

On Monday, the Met Office said the country could once more face severe flooding in February - a problem month in recent years.

Since 1998, the EA explained, the country had seen six of the ten wettest years on record and in the West Midlands, nearly 144,000 properties were at risk of flooding.

Worcester has also seen flooding in recent years and across county borders in Shropshire, both Shrewsbury and Ironbridge have had to brace.

Marc Lidderth, the EA's environment manager for Shropshire and Worcestershire, said the region was seeing a "real change in the climate", with dry summers and wetter winters.

He explained: "It is really hard to appreciate the West Midlands still is in drought status considering we have seen rainfall in recent weeks.

"[But] we have seen an extremely dry summer [so] we are asking those communities that are at risk of flooding to not be complacent... to be prepared for flooding and to not ignore this potentially life-threatening danger happening to them this winter."

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