Around 200 people filled the council chambers at Louth town hall for a public meeting about this year's summer floods. Representatives from the town council, the Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Lindsey Marsh Drainage Board and other responsible authorities explained their various roles in flood defence and fielded questions from the public about the issues.
Susan Dodge, whose home was devastated by the events of the 25th of June, spoke of the need to lobby the government for funds to enable "massive flood prevention". She is organising a petition to deliver to Hilary Benn, the current Environment Secretary, on this issue.
Many of the questions posed by the public revolved around the need to dredge the river Lud. A representative of the Environment Agency explained that the flood had remodelled the river bed, and this has meant that in some places holes have had to be filled in, in order to support the foundations of some of the walls that border the river. So flood prevention is not always a simple matter of cutting deeper and wider channels.
James Gillick, a local artist, stated that he was expecting to hear apologies from those people responsible for Louth's flood planning. He spoke about the low bridges in the town which act as dams, and of his concerns for safety when the flood waters rose 8 feet within 35 minutes on the 25th of June. "You are balancing your books against possible loss of life in Louth," he said.
John Brooker, a civil engineer, concurred. "Protecting the community by controlling the water that comes through is very very important, " John said.
Sir Peter Tapsell, MP for Louth and Horncastle, criticised the tight budget that constrains the various bodies concerned with water and drainage.
"The government reduced by £200 million the amount of money for flood defence," he said. "Since the responsibility for these matters has been given to the Environment Agency the quality of that service has declined." "... I will continue to press the government on these points".
"What is really needed is one authority to be responsible for flooding," Tapsell concluded.
The Chief Executive of ELDC, Nigel Howells, agreed that "we need to lobby".
One resident who had noticed the flood waters rising very early on the 25th of June highlighted the problems of communicating flood waters to the authorities. "How do I raise the alarm?" she asked.
Details of the Environment Agency's Floodline on 0845 988 1188 were given, but the resident mentioned that calling this number had not been effective on the day. Nigel Howells noted that when the sirens sounded "half of the people didn't know what the siren meant."
Several people criticised the time it took for the flood warning sirens to sound.
"We had 25 days of heavy rain, then it peed down .... We knew something was up," said Mr Gillick, making the point that this unusual rainfall should have put the authorities on alert.
A resident of North Cockerington emphasised the impact that flooding has on people. "Almost every single person in this room has had major damage to their homes," he said. "You will never forget it and you will never forgive anyone who procrastinates in dealing with the problem."
The meeting lasted well over two hours. People discussed the lack of gully engines, dykes that have been filled in, planning permission granted for building on the flood plain, and much more. It was very apparent that over 3 months after the events of June, the experiences of that day are still affecting local people profoundly. People came to the meeting looking for answers, but even more than that they were demanding action.
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