More floods? - but not as before
FELIXSTOWE residents could soon be facing floods similar to those seen in 1953.That was the stark warning from Dr Jonathan Wortley, the Environment Agency's area flood defence manager.
FELIXSTOWE residents could soon be facing floods similar to those seen in 1953.
That was the stark warning from Dr Jonathan Wortley, the Environment Agency's area flood defence manager.
Referring to the Great Floods in 1953, Dr Wortley said: "The actual type of event and circumstances could happen again. It is only a matter of time.
"In 1953 people literally drowned in their beds and it is still the worst peace time disaster. That appalling situation must not happen again.
"There is a constant threat of a surge," he said: "The big difference is we have a very good flood warning system so there are a lot of means of monitoring the tide and the level of the sea."
In a plans committee meeting at Felixstowe Town Hall Dr Wortley briefed council members on the threat of flooding in the town and that a project starting soon would improve flood defences.
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The Orwell and Stour Estuary project has been delayed because the Agency had difficulties in gathering the sufficient data and because they are still busy with a similar project in Essex.
Dr Wortley assured the committee that the project had never been missed off their list but that it had been put to the bottom as they had more urgent tasks to carry out. The sea defences are now expected to be up-graded within two years.
As part of the study the Agency has mapped out Felixstowe's tidal flood plain which shows that within two hundred years the port, Trimley marshes, Felixstowe Ferry and residential areas including Sea Road and Langer Road could be in danger of a freak flood, with the south sea front being submerged in one metre of water.
Andy Smith, chairman of the plans committee, criticised the project for concentrating too much on the environmental aspects such as replacing habitats which have been lost through flooding. To re-build these habitats the Environment Agency would need to advise the council to compulsory purchase and force landowners to give up their land.
However residents and farm owners can protect their land and stop this if they proved there was an over-riding public interest.
SANDBAGS, blocking air vents and moving photographs and important documents upstairs are all ways to reduce the devastating effects of flooding.
However there are currently a number of products on the market which claim to stop water from reaching the house far better than the bog-standard sandbag.
Absorbent cushions that are lightweight when dry, expanding foam and a skirt which can surround the house like a temporary brick wall are some of the modern flood defence options.
And one Surrey based company who produces a type of flood barrier believes it can make homes in flood plains, previously seen as too risky to insure, as insurable again.
The Neptune Flood Defence System is a flexible rubber skirt which can be pulled out of the ground to a metre high and attached to a wall by hooks and waterproof zips. This acts as a barrier to flood water and then when the flood has subsided the skirt can be packed away in to the ground again. Sealants and pumps can also be installed to protect against ground water.
The company claims that the £20,000 to £30,000 cost of the system will be far less that the average cost of damage caused by flooding especially when the homeowner can no longer get flood insurance cover. And they say that it can also reduce insurance premiums or even make the house insurable against flood damage.
However the home insurer Norwich Union said that the flood skirt on its own would not change insurance premiums.
Sue Winston, spokeswoman for Norwich Union said: "When it comes to flood skirts the problem with us and the insurance industry is there doesn't appear to be any products tested by a major flood event.
"We want to look at whether the house was built on a flood plain. We would want to look at the complete picture."
Currently Norwich Union only measures flood risk by postcode meaning that a home on a hill which has the same postcode as a home on a flood plain can be judged as having the same flood risk. However the company is currently gathering more precise data of flood risk areas and is hoping to install a new fairer register next year.