The Rye View with Granville Bantick

Learning to live with water

In my last column I drew attention to the current debate as to whether we should believe there is a fundamental change happening with our climate. I said I thought there was. Now the flood waters are subsiding the debate is now turning to the future management of flood plains and whether or not we should be building on them. It seems to me that we have to learn to live with water. The seas are continuing to rise due to the increase in temperatures causing the polar ice caps to melt. The general effect is to cause more stormy and unpredictable weather patterns bringing sea surges and heavy and more frequent periods of rainfall. The risk of flooding from groundwater may also increase if winter rainfall rises appreciably. Rye has had a lucky escape this year with the exception of isolated places such as Winchelsea Beach where the residents were affected not only by their gardens being flooded by water but by raw sewage. Whilst tidal flooding is expected to increase, the outlook for fluvial flooding seems to be a less precise science as was illustrated in the Thames Valley where they had the longest continuous flow rates on record. What should the government and its agencies do to reduce these risks in the future?

Some obvious examples of good water management can be seen in Holland where half the country is at or below sea level. The Dutch people have had to make sacrifices and move to make way for flood schemes to be put in place. They have learnt from past mistakes and we must learn from them. The debate will also focus on funding these schemes. The Environment Agency in our own district has done a marvelous job this winter in protecting the people of Rye from their homes being flooded, and is continuing to work to improve our flood defences. Regrettably without more money being poured into their coffers progress is bound to be slow. Developers and local authorities have to recognize that building on flood plains is risky, unless adequate flood protection is put in place. S106 Agreements may facilitate this progress to better flood protection. Our rivers have provided a timely reminder that flood plains are part of the natural province and, at irregular intervals, will be inundated. Meanwhile, on a micro-level the government’s welcome “repair and renew” grant should encourage families in vulnerable areas to install flood-proof doors and windows, and desist from concreting over gardens, and on a macro-level, designing houses where the living quarters are constructed above garages. It is a case of adapting to the changes we are experiencing in our climate.

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The Rye Highways Forum had another useful meeting recently where the subject of illegal parking was again discussed. A solution may be hopefully found by the appointment of a traffic warden who could be shared with Battle if funding can be put in place. This is currently being actively explored by Sussex Police and East Sussex County Council. It was thought that the main issues were over-staying the time limit and parking on pavements. There was a suggestion that the fee for blue badge holders might be raised and/or the hours of parking be reduced to from 3 to 2 hours. Concern was raised over further damage to the town’s cobbled streets, especially were there to be sharp frosts. Often work carried out on the cobbles was quickly undone again. It was possible that the quality of the work carried out was not up to the specification by whoever was responsible for employing the sub-contractors to do the work. Highways are to be asked to advise on the exact specifications. A discussion also took place as to whether the Highways Forum should be subsumed into the new Rye Neighbourhood Plan’s Transport Group. It was agreed not to do so, but allow the Transport Group to concern itself with strategic issues, and the Highways Forum with day to day operational matters.