Charles Howell, Executive Member of Shrewsbury Business Chamber reports:
Following our ongoing discussions with Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski concerning the flooding issues affecting Shrewsbury , and at the invitation of Shropshire Council through the Severn Valley Water Management Scheme I attended the recent Flood & Coast Conference , held in Telford, and took part in a ‘workshop discussion’ hosted by Binnies , environmental engineers .
The key issues discussed included:
Floods in 2020, 2021, and 2022 caused £450 million economic damage and directly affected over 3,000 houses and 1,000 businesses in the River Severn catchment.
In towns such as Shrewsbury, relatively few buildings may be flooded, but access to the central business area is restricted, which causes disproportionately high economic damage especially around the Christmas/New Year peak shopping and entertainment period.
Individual flood defence schemes, if assessed on traditional direct funding criteria are not viable.
Two-thirds of the catchment is in Wales, which suffers relatively little damage; the reverse applies to English towns downstream.
The effect of climate change – more frequent, more sudden, flooding.
Difficulties in arranging suitable buildings insurance.
More centralised government based at Westminster and Cardiff has eroded traditional cross-border political co-operation.
Further divergence as previous Europe – wide standards and regulations are modified differently by England and Wales.
There is no easy solution!
However, there does appear to be some progress in creating a catchment wide forum. This is firstly at national level through the Severn Valley caucus of Members of Parliament , and also by greater co-operation by the regional public sector (Powys, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and other councils, the Environment Agency, DEFRA , etc) and other stakeholders via the River Severn Partnership. There is then proposed engagement between larger commercial groups including insurance companies, NFU , key landowners (both rural and urban) , water companies and other utilities , etc.
[An extract from the Environment Agency’s article about the Severn Valley Water Management Scheme is available to view on the Business Chamber website].
Whilst this forum is worked up so that it could produce town planning, transport liaison, land management and other guidance it is important that more immediate solutions/mitigation/adaptation are found which provide help for residents and businesses in the short term.
By way of ‘local co-operation‘ at parish/county/local business level it may be possible to create better flood protection for individual properties , secure improved buildings insurance terms, more integrated public transport , changes in farming methods , etc. Town Planners, Land Agents, Insurance Brokers and other professional advisors will have roles to play in this.
The Business Chamber is regularly informed by Daniel Kawczynski of progress at a parliamentary level including his meetings with the Floods Minister Rebecca Pow, and we would hope to have a review meeting with him in the autumn.