For the second time this season, parts of England have got floods. This time the southwestern Midlands, including our biggest river the Severn, is at the heart of it, and some of the pictures are quite impressive.
Here in West Devon, our weather has been more moderate. On a narrow peninsula surrounded by the warm waters of the gulf stream, it’s always moderate. We have neither hot summers nor cold winters. Normal rainfall is above average for the country, but Dartmoor has ample capacity to soak it up. Our rivers are too small to build up big floods.
The biggest river locally is the Tamar, which marks the cornish border. It actually did flood a few years ago (this century:-), though the floods were not on a large scale by national, let alone world standards. At the nearest point, Gunnislake, it runs through a deep and steep wooded valley, and can rise quite a long way in exceptional conditions.
And there are old cottages along the river, that are flood-prone. Indeed, they’re built for it, with things like flagstone floors downstairs, as well as stone walls. The original occupants will have taken occasional flooding for granted, and expected to deal with it.
What should we learn from history? We have a lot of houses built in flood-prone areas: that’s not about to change, though some of them may benefit from new flood-defences. But they fall into two categories: those built to deal with it (the older ones), and those build with no regard to their surroundings (those from the past century or so).
What can owners of unfit houses do to minimise the impact of flooding on their homes? I don’t know, but it’s a question we should be asking.
One useful thing that could go into “Home Information Packs” would be not just a flood risk figure, but also an assessment of a house’s fitness to withstand flooding. That would tend to put some kind of market pressure on builders to do a better job, as well as informing buyers.