Martin Curtis on Flooding in Whittlesey

road_closed17:17 Wednesday 5th February 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: Turn on the TV or listen to the radio, you can’t avoid the bad weather. If it’s not affecting you right now, it will do soon. .. Let’s look at the situation in Cambridgeshire now, and bring in Martin Curtis, councillor Martin Curtis, who’s the Leader of the County Council. Hello Martin.
MARTIN CURTIS: Good evening.
CHRIS MANN: And also of course councillor for Whittlesey North, appropriately enough, because that’s an area or THE area probably, worst affected by flooding. Just how bad is it there?

MARTIN CURTIS: It’s quite bad at the moment. We all know the Whittlesey Wash, the B1040 road is flooded, which causes absolute chaos in the town when it happens. And yes, it’s quite serious at the moment. And obviously we have residents who get concerned. Certainly last year the flooding was very close to encroaching into houses.
CHRIS MANN: Dennis Birch we heard from at the Lamb and Flag in Welney. We also heard from John McGuiness the landlord of the Dog in a Doublet at Whittlesey. Very frustrating for them, the businesses almost in peril, there’s so much disruption to the access to their pubs.
MARTIN CURTIS: They’re absolutely right. One of the things we have to go away and look at. I had a meeting with Steven Barclay, and we’re trying to put some challenge about ..
CHRIS MANN: The MP of course.
MARTIN CURTIS: Absolutely. The MP for North East Cambridgeshire. Trying to put some challenge in about how these road closures work, and just making sure we are getting it right., so we’re not closing the road when we don’t need to. And it is a difficult balance, because we know that if there’s water coming in and they close the road, sometimes .. well it’s not an exact science, and so it’s difficult. We need to make sure we get it right and better.
CHRIS MANN: Well questions are being asked elsewhere in the country, and need to be asked here too. Has enough dredging been done? The rivers seem to be very high, higher than they have been for a generation. Is this something to do with the lack of action by the Environment Agency to keep them clear?
MARTIN CURTIS: I think there’s a real combination, certainly around Whittlesey, of issues, that the Environment Agency certainly have to explain why, if they’re not dredging, why dredging doesn’t work. Because the reality is, for me as a layman, it makes sense to me to say if you’ve got more capacity in a river, then more water can flow down it and you’ll have less flooding. So they have to explain themselves if they’re not dredging and stopping doing it. That’s absolutely clear. But for Whittlesey it’s a combination of things, because we’ve also got an increase inthe amount of flood defences up in Northampton, and that means that water actually, you get more water flooding down the Nene. And that floods onto the flood plain that we have.
CHRIS MANN: There is some spending going on, some work going on in the B1040, isn’t there at the moment?
MARTIN CURTIS: Not the B1040. But to the west side of the B1040 there’s about £26 million worth of flood defence work going on, which is about protecting and enhancing some of the flood defences that protect Coates, certainly part of Coates which is next to Whittlesey of course. So there is work going on, and we believe more could be done on the B1040, around the B1040. So we think, and certainly there is a view, that maybe widening some of the culverts along there would allow more water to flood under rather than over the road. So we need to go away and look at some of those issues.
CHRIS MANN: Some of the destruction we’ve seen today in Devon is Mother Nature. But some of the flooding we’ve seen in Somerset and indeed in the Fens is actually designed to happen, isn’t it? It just happens that people have built on flood plains.
MARTIN CURTIS: Well that’s absolutely right. This issue about building on flood plains and next to flood plains is a big current issue in Whittlesey. But people have to understand that if you are putting concrete into ground that’s there to absorb water, the water will be displaced. And that’s something that we face, and we have to think about. And it’s a very current and pertinent issue in Whittlesey.
CHRIS MANN: So who’s going to give you answers on all of this Martin?
MARTIN CURTIS: We need to put some challenges in. As I said I had a meeting last week with a few residents, and with Steven Barclay, and we’re going to go away and put some challenges to see what we can do to make things better. And obviously for Whittlesey people I would say the planned bridge over Kings Dyke crossing will make a huge difference, especially first thing during the day and in terms of accessibility to Peterborough, because that’s a big issue. It obviously won’t sort the Dog in Doublet’s problem. We have to take a wider view of that as well.
CHRIS MANN: Martin Curtis, thank you for joining us. Leader of the County Council, and also councillor for Whittlesey North.