UK defence issues and the odd container or two

A Look at the MoD’s #Floods Response

The latest MoD Flood Response press release informs us that over three thousand service personnel are now involved with supporting the flood response or on standby to do so.

Is this an effective use of defence resource, or window dressing in the rain designed to provide an MTP fig leaf for an incompetent, ignorant and lazy government?

An obvious question given the propensity of all political parties to wrap themselves in the Union Flag, it is hardly an accusation without foundation.

wriggly tin1 A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
Wriggly Tin and a Monkey (a picket driving Monkey that is!)

It is perhaps an obvious statement to make, but the floods have progressed from response to blame and the inevitable politicisation of the issue makes any clear headed analysis somewhat difficult. Nerves are frayed and political opportunism mean that it is easy to find comment and opinion, that might not be wholly subjective.

If you want to see how global warming is to blame, easy, or, how it is not to blame, equally easy, especially as the contradiction was from a Met Office  funded scientist with a global reputation for climate modelling. Others have stepped in to debunk the many strident voices about the unprecedented nature of recent rainfall.

There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.

How about savage cuts, mmm, maybe not.

Tapping into the mood of many, Nigel Farage decided to aim at overseas development aid instead of looking at the role of the EU, as others have convincingly done.

Commenting on the relief effort, David Cameron said;

Money is no object in this relief effort. Whatever money is needed for, it will be spent.

Politicians of all kinds decided the best thing they could do was ‘be there’

The Daily Mail reacted in typical fashion to the Environment Agency spending money on Gay Pride marches and diversity training, which when you think about, is an incredible waste of public funding. It is a small sum but a public relations own goal of massive proportions that will see the end of Lord Smith, formerly known as the Drought Tsar.

Piled on top of the Environment Agencies love for birds and apparent indifference to dredging means there is a whiff of Public Enquiry in the wind, although unusually, not sure I have seen anyone calling for such, except Nigel.

So don’t be thinking there is going to be any clarity any time soon!

sandbags A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
The sandbags are over there chaps, best crack on!

What of the response, specifically, what of the MoD’s response, this is after all a defence site, not a political one?

In a couple of previous posts I gathered a collection of media that highlighted the multi faceted MoD response, everything from the simplest act of filling sandbags to the most complex, using the RAF’s Sentinel R1 aircraft to provide water level change data.

In this post I want to look closer at the mechanisms of response and examine if it is a good use of scarce defence resource or, as I said, fig leafing for politicians.

I suspect there will not be a simple answer, there never is is there?

To understand how this all fits together you have to go back to the early 2000′s and the Foot & Mouth outbreak, Western European flooding and fuel strikes and protests, it was a bad couple of years in that respect.

The post incident analysis from those three resulted in a general consensus; Foot and Mouth Disease: Lessons to be Learned Inquiry Report HC888 (specifically Chapter 11) and Learning to Live with Rivers both came to the conclusion that coordination at all levels of local, regional and national Government had significant room for improvement and the complicated patchwork of, in some cases, decades old, legislation was in need of serious shake up.

In terms of defence impacts, the Foot and Mouth Outbreak was acutely and positively affected by the involvement of the MoD

Chapter 9.9 of the enquiry report goes into detail;

Whatever the reason, the arrival of the military heralded a positive step change in the management of the disease. This could and should have been done earlier.

The Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat was by then working on the legislation and in 2004, the Civil Contingencies Act was published, it repealing a number of older statutes.

CCA 2004 is generally a good piece of legislation, well thought through and having broad consensus amongst the political parties.

There was (and perhaps still is) some controversy about the emergency powers aspects of the Act, they are pretty far reaching when all said and done but as far as I understand, have never been fully used and most people agree that it would need a situation of national survival before they were used.

There were many provisions in the CCA 2004 but broadly speaking it sought to place clear and unambiguous statutory obligation on a range of organisations, called the Category 1 and Category 2 Responders specifically. Instead of a complex patchwork of out of date legislation, there was just one.

A Category 1 Responder is an organisation that has a primary role in emergency and civil resilience planning and response, Category 2, a secondary role. Examples of Category 1 includes Local Authorities and Police Services, Category 2 contains organisations like water or power companies.

Subsequent guidance, revisions and best practice has built on the enabling act and my recent post (reproduced below) lists most of the relevant items, along some additional flood and MoD specific documentation.

[accordion]

[acc_item title="The Regulatory and Guidance Landscape - CLICK TO EXPAND"]

Legislation

Guidance

Ministry of Defence

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

Other


[/acc_item]
[/accordion]

Wikipedia also has a pretty good summary of CCA 2004

What has happened since CCA 2004 in regards of the MoD’s involvement with civil resilience has been marked by a broad trends away from the subject and two specific influencing factors.

  • Iraq and Afghanistan
  • The SDSR 2010

With continuous operations abroad the desire and scope for earmarking resource to civil contingencies has simply not been there.

Despite the 2007 Gloucester floods and notably, the Olympics, the MoD seemed very keen to distance itself from civil resilience.

Rightly so, and this was also enshrined in the underlying principles of the Civil Contingency Act.

It should be noted that the Ministry of Defence is neither a Category 1 or Category 2 Responder, the act places no statutory obligations upon the MoD.

Instead of relying on the MoD, the local authority, fire, police and other responder communities have been gradually improving their own capabilities across a broad range of procedural, technical, equipment and general capability areas.

This did not happen overnight, steady progress has been made over the years since the Act was published, as was on display for all to see during the 7/7 London bombings, an assured response by the civil resilience responder community.

Beyond specialist capabilities such as the provision of search and rescue helicopters, explosive ordnance disposal and counter terrorism, the broad message to responders was ‘don’t call us’

This reluctance to offer up itself quickly could be seen as early as the Foot and Mouth Outbreak, the report linked above clearly highlighting availability concerns..

However, we have been told by several senior officers that there may be circumstances under which the military is unable to provide support on the same scale as during this FMD outbreak. Military duties may mean that the availability of the armed forces to assist with the management of domestic crises is restricted

Very clear, availability is uncertain and should not be relied upon, we are rather busy at the moment!

The report also made a recommendation about provision of MoD resource

30. We recommend that as part of its contingency planning, DEFRA,the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales, working with the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, examine the practicality of establishing a national volunteer reserve trained and informed to respond immediately to an outbreak of infectious animal disease.

The Civil Contingency Response Force (CCRF) was a brief but ultimately unsuccessful programme to create thirteen 500 strong groups of volunteers from the Territorial Army capable of being mobilised at short notice to assist in dealing with a major civil emergency.

Many years later, as CCA 2204 had been in place for a few years, the Gloucester (and beyond) floods tested the nations resilience and response arrangements.

During the floods the Army played a key role in the response, providing logistics support for bottled water distribution following the inundation of the Mythe water treatment facility for example. Army logisticians based in the Gold team at Gloucester provided invaluable assistance, as did Tesco and many voluntary organisations.

The pivotal moment came at Walham substation that served about half a million people, things would have been very serious indeed if Walham was lost.

A combined effort by local firefighters, Army and Navy personnel averted a disaster, specifically some rather skilful driving that put pumping equipment exactly where it was needed.

Walham1 640x412 A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
Walham sub station

Many people still don’t realise how close to a real disaster we came in 2007, half a million people without mains power would have had huge implications and it was averted by a small group of largely unsung Army, Royal Navy and Fire service personnel.

Floods over, it was time for an enquiry.

The lesson learned review was presided over by Sir Michael Pitt, the Pitt Review published its findings in Summer 2008.

Click here to read, it is a monumental piece of work and provides a great point of reference and comparison for what is happening now.

The report noted the lack of CCRF deployment;

12 .137 The Review has been advised by the MoD that the use of CCRFs was considered but  that it would have taken longer to mobilise the  CCRFs than it would to deploy regular forces to the scene . Since time was of the essence,  regular Armed Forces personnel were used . Further, after the first 24 hours the majority  of the work undertaken by the Armed Forces required specialist skills which the CCRFs did not have – for example engineering skills to construct semi-permanent flood defences and logistics specialists for the distribution of water supplies . Finally, any reserve personnel in the local area may have had other responsibilities in the community which would have been lost if they had been called up

And that was the end of CCRF.

Another call came for greater involvement of the MoD in civil resilience.

Not good timing of course, Afghanistan and Iraq meant the MoD yet again, pushed back.

There is no local, regional or national statutory obligation placed upon the MoD for emergency response, non whatsoever. Instead, it is provisioned through a framework called Military Aid to the Civilian Authority or MACA

In September 2007, the second edition of the MoD’s publication JDP 02 was released that described how the MoD’s MACA capability works.

It is essential reading for anyone involved in this area, including the CCA responder community.

If you do read, be prepared for a flood of three letter acronyms (sorry about that, couldn’t resist)

The provision of MACA is guided by three VERY CLEAR principles

1. Military aid should always be the last resort. The use of mutual aid,  other agencies, and the private sector must be otherwise considered as insufficient or be unsuitable.

2. The Civil Authority lacks the required level of capability to fulfil the task and it is unreasonable or prohibitively expensive to expect it to develop one.

3. The Civil Authority has a capability, but the need to act is urgent and it lacks readily available resources.

Para 224 and 225 – Suitability of Armed Forces Support, again makes very clear the limitations of ‘getting the Army in’.

a. The Armed Forces are relatively small when compared to the numbers of personnel in the emergency services, health service and local authorities.

b. The skills, the equipment, and the capabilities of the Armed Forces are designed for military use and focused on expeditionary operations. Both the  applicability and the public impact of deploying military capabilities, skills and equipment should be taken into account when undertaking operations in the UK.

c. The Armed Forces themselves draw on civil capabilities wherever  necessary. Armed Forces medical support, for example, is closely integrated into the National Health Service (NHS). Civil contractors undertake most  logistic, transport, construction and other support tasks. This allows Armed Forces personnel to concentrate on their core business, which is to prepare for, and deploy, on military operations. Using Armed Forces personnel to undertake civil tasks may damage their ability to prepare for the tasks they are regularly asked to perform in the course of their normal duties.

d. The Armed Forces are not designed to provide an emergency response service, with certain exceptions

e. The Armed Forces do not have a monopoly on equipment suitable for use in emergencies. Some relevant specialist skills and equipment within the Armed Forces often have civil counterparts and equivalents more suited to the civil environment, and usually in greater numbers. All-terrain vehicles, for example, are quite common in both the public and private sectors. Armed Forces engineering capabilities are especially tailored for battlefield use and, even taken as a whole, they do not exceed in size or capability the civilian engineering resources available in a medium-sized town in the UK.

Charging arrangements for the use of the MoD were also revised and communicated widely to Category 1 and 2 Responders.

JDP 2/02 devotes an entire section (VI) to funding.

For the reasons outlined above, MACA activity is, with a few specific exceptions, not funded within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) budget and is,  therefore, conducted on a repayment basis. Treasury rules dictate that Government  Departments charge for services that do not form part of their funded tasks. No matter  how valid a request for assistance may appear, Defence funds are granted for Defence  purposes. If the cost is not applicable to Defence, then it represents an improper use of  resources and must be recovered

267.C goes even further

Service personnel must not be used as cheap labour or in competition with commercial firms.

The MoD also produce a guidance document, specifically aimed at civilian responder organisations, to explain further what this means.

Operations in the UK, A Guide for Civil Responders, was published in February 2010.

This document goes into more detail about what MACA might actually entail, bridging and logistics support for example.

It continued to downplay the role of defence in civil emergencies in the UK and again, clearly highlighted the charging regime.

It really could not be clearer, please don’t call us.

And so the civilian responders continued to develop their capabilities.

Pitt and the London Bombings exposed cracks and weaknesses but the general principle of relying less on the MoD had been established and was bearing fruit, the civilian responders were moving forward in multiple areas.

All was well in the civil resilience/MoD world

Then came the 2009/2010 Election campaign and resultant Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010.

I remember writing about a subtle but important change in pre election Conservative proposals, commenting that the words ‘homeland resilience’ had started to appear.

Americanism’s aside, the prevailing theme seemed to promote a greater involvement of Defence in matters UK resilience.

The Conservative policy paper, A Resilient Nation, included a proposal…

A new focus on our capacity to deal with emergencies, including a more structured military contribution to homeland security

The actual paper has long since disappeared from the Conservative Party website (obviously) but you can find it here

I wrote an analysis of the paper in 9 parts, the relevant one here;

The subsequent manifesto pretty much repeated the call for greater armed forces involvement with ‘homeland security’ although in fairness, it framed this in terms of security rather than resilience.

I don’t think anyone really noticed this, SDSR 2010 of course had much bigger fish to fry as we all know but it did include a number of references to resilience issues including the structure/terms of reference of the National Security Council and in the 8 National Security tasks and planning guidelines;

enhanced central government and Armed Forces planning, coordination and capabilities to help deal with the most serious emergencies

It also signalled a change in the focus of civil emergencies risks, describing how the relative focus of national risks would change, the new top three  would be terrorism, pandemic influenza and coastal/tidal flooding.

That’s right, coastal/tidal flooding was in the Top 3 National Security Risks, bear that one in mind when looking at the Environment Agencies funding of flood defence projects, perhaps they didn’t read the SDSR?

There was not a great deal of detail on enhanced and structured response capabilities but the intent was clear, change was on its way.

In March 2012, in response to Army 2020, I wrote

After a decade of doing the hard yards on operations those left in the Army now face a peace dividend and future filled with driving petrol tankers and filling sandbags,  or homeland resilience as it is now seemingly called, cheers Dave.

Homeland has such an American ring to it, why not got the whole hog with our slavish devotion to US buzzwords and call the British Army, the Homeland Warfighter Service.

A later post, in July, took another look at Army 2020 issues

FIVE – A Sudden Interest in ‘Homeland Resilience and Security’

When the Conservative Party released its pre-election defence strategy I covered in some depth its focus on using the Armed Forces to deliver against an increased obligation for homeland security and resilience.

Oh, stop there a minute…

Anyone who uses the term homeland in relation to the UK should be taken outside and debagged, it’s a pathetic and demeaning display of a slavish devotion to US military and security fashion, like warfighting, it needs expunging from any British defence language.

Rant over

For several years the Armed Forces had seen civil contingency support as something they should do as a last resort and rightly so. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and subsequent guidance shifted the relevant responders away from any form of reliance of the Armed Forces but as the end to operations in Afghanistan is in sight it seems that they are now all over the ‘mission’

Like the ‘security theatre’ and anti-aircraft missiles on rooftops for the expensive summer sports day that are part of the new found interest we need to have a very long think about this, not sure we are travelling the correct road.

I must have been on a prolonged rantathon that month because I wrote about it again;

A New Found Love of Civil Resilience

For many years the MoD has been working to wean Category 1 responders off reliance on the Army, the Civil Contingency Act, subsequent guidance and activity and JDP 2 makes it abundantly clear that civil resilience support is pretty much the domain of civilian organisations with the armed forces providing only specialist and very much last resort support.

Expect this to be rewritten any time soon but JDP 2 (Defence Contribution to Resilience) makes interesting reading, all 317 pages of it.

The new found interest in all this ‘homeland’ stuff might be viewed by some as clutching at the relevance straw and likely to be ditched as soon as interesting operations abroad come back into fashion (they inevitably will)

A cynic might wonder of the Army’s new found love of the previously ginger step-kid style civil resilience mission (sorry, I refuse to use the term homeland any more in this post) is an opportunistic grab at relevance, ground based air defence for the upcoming sports day being arguably a good example.

The responder community has for years been told by the MoD to basically jog on so I would not expect the MoD to be welcomed back like the prodigal son as it tries to muscle back in on resource budgets, missions and influence in the resilience space.

If Cat 1 responders do take the opportunity to reduce resilience budgets and have the Army on speed dial instead is the Army setting itself up for a rude awakening?

The significant issue here was that after many years of pushing the civil response community away, the government and MoD seemed to signal a step change in SDSR 2010 but unfortunately, did not provide much to back up the mood music.

One might reasonably conclude there was some confusion.

In 2012 the Government published its final response to the Pitt Review, click here to read

The Environment Agency released the National Flood Emergency Framework in October 2013, click here to read.

Did any of this show how the MoD would be involved in a more structured manner as signposted by SDSR 2010?

Nope

In fact, it repeated the ‘don’t call us’ line.

Although no responsibilities are placed on Defence under the Civil Contingencies Act in the  event of a civil crisis, the MOD recognises that it may receive requests for assistance in the event of a crisis beyond the capability or capacity of the civil authorities. All requests for  military support that receive Ministerial approval will be provided at best effort, within the  limits of resources available at the time, balanced against core military tasks and are likely  to attract a charge for the full costs associated with that support (unless there is an  immediate risk to life).

It goes on to reinforce the key principles in JDP 2/02;

Notwithstanding for incidents deemed an immediate threat to human life, the provision of military aid is guided by 3 key principles that are applied to each request both at Joint Regional Liaison Officer (JRLO) and MOD levels:

Last Resort: Military aid should only be provided where the need for someone to act is clear and where other options have been discounted by the civil responder. The use of mutual aid, other agencies and the private sector must be otherwise considered as  insufficient or be unsuitable.

Lack of Capability: The Civil Authority making the request lacks the required level of capability to fulfil the tasks and it is unreasonable or prohibitively expensive to expect to develop one.

Urgency: The Civil Authority has a capability but the need to act is urgent and it lacks readily available resources.

Funding remained a complex issue.

If there is an immediate threat to life, the MoD must carry the costs. This meant that the logistics effort for the summer 2007 floods had to be paid for, but the rescue activities by the MoD in Yorkshire were not.

The MoD also makes clear that costs will be recovered but those costs cannot be guaranteed so bringing the MoD into the response phase may involve a bill the size of which is unknown at the point of request.

 

The MoD will endeavour to provide an estimate but is very clear that the final cost will be uncertain in most cases.

This might be OK if we are all chums together, but an MoD bill has to be paid from local authority revenues that then has to be claimed back through Bellwin.

Remember the story from a few weeks ago about the Royal Marines landing craft transferring vehicles at Calstock in Cornwall?

The bill has just landed on the councils doormat, £17 thousand, just under ten percent higher than estimated.

Local authorities making use of MoD resources can ‘claim back’ the cost of doing so through something called the Bellwin Scheme, but don’t begin to think that is a simple process that starts with a blank cheque and big smile.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee looked at Bellwin funding as part of its 2013 report on Managing Flood Risk (PDF version here)

The Bellwin scheme provides emergency financial assistance from central government funds to help local authorities meet uninsurable costs incurred when responding to a major emergency. However, there are statutory restrictions on the types of expenditure eligible for central funding. The Government will reimburse authorities for 85% of the costs of “immediate action to safeguard life or property or prevent suffering or severe inconvenience to inhabitants”, so long as these are more than 0.2% of the authority’s annual revenue budget. Both the threshold of spend required before help is provided and the narrow criteria for assessing eligible costs were criticised by local government witnesses

Faced with a large bill, a council may apply for relief funds but there is no absolute certainty of qualification and in any case will only cover 85%, and then only if the total bill is more than 0.2% of its revenue budget.

In a world of fixed budgets and higher priority immoveable duties like social care, social security or education it all becomes an exercise in disappointment management.

This, combined with the general and published in many places reluctance of the MoD to be seen as the fourth emergency service means that it is unlikely the MoD will be involved until much later in the incident response timeline.

Coming late to the party is institutionalised, it is designed like that.

This was the same for Foot and Mouth as it was for the Summer 2007 flood as it is for the floods today.

The MoD gets involved, but gets involved later, as a specific function of the hundreds of moving pieces in play and the subtle influences of funding and engagement models in a complex Statutory Duties landscape.

One of the key criticisms of the Local Authorities is they are lazy, they sit back and wait for the MoD to respond and defund civil resilience preparation because the defence budget will pick up the tab.

Clearly, that is complete nonsense.

That perception is understood to be hokum by those involved.

Making use of the MoD is merely a matter of juggling Statutory Duties.

The MoD have none, Category 1 Responders have many.

In addition to civil resilience statutory duties a Local Authority (Category 1 responder) has many many more.

If you are a local authority, you have to balance the resources deployed with the legal duty to comply with approximately 1,300 Statutory Duties

Civil Partnerships, Social Care, Education, Data Protection, Social Security, Public Health, Highways and even the Food Enzyme Regulations all have to compete for finite funding.

Someone has to make a balanced judgement about funding priorities, it is not the MoD, it is not the Cabinet Office and it is certainly not the Prime Minister or any part of central government.

Local Authorities are the Lead Responder for flooding although the Environment Agency leads on flood risk and police forces will lead on response, are you confused yet?

Of course you are, this is one of the problems with the UK civil resilience response capability in broad terms, a very complex organisational and responsibility framework that all but eliminates opportunity for economies of scale, promotes expensive duplication and makes the command and control arrangements in some cases, unclear and unwieldy.

The Police services and Local Authorities for example, have to have operational independence from Central Government, the MoD and Environment Agency/DEFRA on the other hand do not.

Combine that with the lack of funding clarity and competing requirements for funding in local government and it should be obvious that problems are going to be manifest.

Which brings us pretty much up to date.

The MoD has been responding and it is probably fair to say the initial efforts were a bit localised and haphazard, reports of a lack of protective equipment for example.

But as things progress, a greater control will be obtained and a more coordinated and ‘aligned with need’ output will obviously result with all three services providing a valuable and reassuring contribution to those in need.

oi dave did you bring any pies with you 640x312 A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
oi Dave – did you bring any pies with you

Even the Princes got involved, amazingly, the entire national and international press corps were there at the same time!

It will be like waking a sleeping dragon; expect to see images of Chinooks, Merlins, Sappers doing Sapper stuff, off road vehicles and lots of people pointing at maps in GOLD control locations up and down the country.

Some of the higher profile MoD activities have come from the RAF, using the Sentinel R1 and RAPTOR pod equipped Tornado to provide high resolution imagery and SAR/GMTI data in support of mapping efforts for example

The BBC report describes how the R1 has been used to assess rate of change of water levels, vehicle movements and other information somewhat related to its traditional role of assessing vehicle movements in support of military operations, it goes on to make the point that unlike unmanned or smaller manned aircraft it can cover large areas relatively quickly.

Read more from the MoD here

r1 imagery floods A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
R1 Imagery Floods

The image below shows one example of the RAPTOR pod, the Image Analysts comment reads ‘low lying ground adjacent to river is affected by flood water’

raptor pod floods 640x381 A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response
Bourne End – Click to Enlarge

Now that comment might sound like a statement of the bleedin obvious but the image analysts should provide another piece of the MoD’s response jigsaw.

Fascinating stuff and hats off to those involved but one of the general conditions of MoD involvement is that the capability does not exist in the civilian sector. Is high resolution aerial photography and synthetic aperture radar something that is only available through the good offices of the RAF?

Without understanding the very detailed and very restricted capabilities of the Sentinel and RAPTOR it is impossible to say but one thing is very clear, the UK is one of the most intensely mapped regions on the planet. All sorts of interested parties, commercial and governmental produce map data in general, and flood map data specifically. Read any of the enquiry reports and they are full of information about GIS and mapping systems, there is a large commercial market for providers and equipment. The research sector is also active in this area and providers include Mapping Solutions, Lidar Airborne, Aerial Survey, Fugro GeospatialLongdin and Browning, Blom UK and, well, I think you get the picture.

There are mountains of research papers available on the use of LIDAR, optical and SAR data for flood prediction and response.

Given that some of these commercial providers use LIDAR, a capability not available through the RAF, we could form an opinion that perhaps there is some overlap.

Perhaps the speed and reach of the Sentinel and RAPTOR equipped Tornado provides a unique advantage, or the imagery analysis and change detection capability is unique, I don’t know.

Just to give you an idea of the costs involved with running these types of aircraft (and with the caveat that you really do need to understand the difference between full and marginal costs) recent FOI requests and Parliamentary Answers provide some insight.

Sentinel R1 costs £1,400 per hour in fuel (2012/13 average figures), the marginal cost set at £910 per hour (how that is less than the fuel rate is not exactly clear) and the full fat cost comes in at an eye watering £25,171 per hour

The Tornado GR4 FULL COSTS are £28,000 per hour.

Given these costs have to be absorbed by someone, wonder who put their hand up for that one.

We also know that the Environment Agency, yes that Environment Agency, have  something called the Geomatics Group

It is from these modest beginnings that Environment Agency Geomatics has emerged, becoming one of the UK’s leading providers of geospatial products. Our vision is to build on this legacy, with a commitment to scientific excellence and the use of cutting-edge technology, techniques and experienced specialist personnel, to further advance the provision of environmental monitoring and asset management.

As a specialist business unit within the Environment Agency, we are uniquely positioned to support the important flood and coastal monitoring work they do, as well as provide services to other organisations, including government agencies, NGO’s and the commercial sector.

Today, at the heart of our service offering is aerial LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), first used by the Agency in 1998 and CASI (Compact Airborne Spectrographic Imager), the original survey technique used for coastal monitoring of algal blooms back in 1992. We also offer high resolution digital aerial photography, thermal imaging and bathymetry surveys.

They share that data with the very active GIS and mapping community and the Government even publishes the data sets, such as a 25cm resolution LIDAR map.

Data does not seem to be in short supply.

RVL operate a pair of Cessna 404′s on behalf of the Geomatics Group

5265946342 bf65026d25 n A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response

Here is a video showing the aircraft landing at Filton

As can be imagined, Geomatics have been rather busy providing aerial imagery, you can follow their twitter feed and facebook pages with a few selected images below

Wonder what the hourly costs of those Cessna 404′s are?

I know there will be many who see the RAF’s intervention as pushing in, justifying the continued existence of the Sentinel post Afghanistan and general showboating but it is probably one of those interesting instances of the right hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, it is entirely understandable, it is a chaotic situation after all(I mean that in the general sense and is not a criticism of those involved)

This possible minor overlap aside, a great response by all involved I think.

The very latest news is Phil Hammond confirming that Bellwin rules will change and local authorities will qualify for 100% relief. He has also said that 5,000 personnel were on standby and a team of Sappers would be used to complete a rapid assessment of existing flood defences.

So we’re going to try and do in five weeks what would be about a two-year programme of inspection.

Now we all know that God’s chosen ones are bloody good (I understand God is a Sapper) but that is a big ask. icon smile A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response

One more thing he added on the Andrew Marr show, the MoD should have been involved earlier.

We offered troops quite a long while ago to civil authorities who wanted them. What we’ve done over the last 10 days is push them a bit more aggressively at those civil authorities. Putting military liaison officers into the gold commands so that they are embedded in the system has been a major step forward and I think probably we will want to make sure in future that we do that at a very early stage in any emerging problem.

This is an interesting admission, clearly the local authorities have been reluctant and equally clearly, the MoD now being aggressive in pushing itself forward flies in the face of its own guidance and doctrine.

It is also worth noting that MoD engagement early in the response phase was highlighted in both the Foot and Mouth enquiry and the Pitt review.

In fact, if you look at the Governments response to the Pitt Review (linked above) several recommendations in this area have already been implemented, especially providing MoD liaison personnel in regional GOLD commands, it is hardly an innovation, it exactly as has been referred to for many years and no doubt will be promptly forgotten about for the next time.

Perhaps the 2014 floods post mortem will highlight exactly the same thing!

I have a great deal of sympathy for local authority civil resilience planners, generally in very small teams with little funding priority have to really step up in times like these. With the complex command and control landscape, various and sometimes conflicting statutory duties and an emergency funding model that is almost guaranteed to inject uncertainty and delay, frankly, I am amazed at what is actually delivered.

Into this mix sits the MoD, with no statutory obligations and a doctrine that actively dissuades civilian responders from engaging in the response phase.

To top it all we now have the environment agency in defence mode and a central government looking to deflect blame by hiding behind the armed forces, appearing to be aggressive in pushing the MoD onto responders despite years of telling them no, and if it is a yes, expect a big bill.

This is not the 1950′s anymore, the MoD does not have loads of people hanging around whitewashing rocks and even the initial modest scale deployments would have disrupted courses and other planned activities.

The same questions remain, are the government using the armed forces as a fig leaf, are the MoD now wanting to get back into the civil resilience limelight as a way of staying relevant post Afghanistan drawdown.

Complex questions with no easy answers

But do filling sandbags, providing aerial imagery and surveying flood defences fall into to the 3 black and white criteria for MoD involvement, to remind you again…

Last Resort: Military aid should only be provided where the need for someone to act is clear and where other options have been discounted by the civil responder. The use of mutual aid, other agencies and the private sector must be otherwise considered as  insufficient or be unsuitable.

Lack of Capability: The Civil Authority making the request lacks the required level of capability to fulfil the tasks and it is unreasonable or prohibitively expensive to expect to develop one.

Urgency: The Civil Authority has a capability but the need to act is urgent and it lacks readily available resources.

Will leave that for others to decide.

We can also absolutely be certain that those people in Local Authority Civil Resilience departments won’t be getting any plaudits in the media, lazy arsed civil servants that they are invariably portrayed as. Instead, our hero worship culture will see more column inches, tweets and Facebook likes devoted to ‘our brave boys’

Lets make no mistake, the Armed Forces have, and will continue to do a great job in support of the many public, voluntary and private sector organisations (and it must be said, the Environment Agency operations teams) who are involved but there should be a wider debate about how the MoD is deployed in support of civil resilience operations because I think it would be fair to say at the very least, there are mixed messages.

Finally

Inside the Environment Agency – Experiences from EA Insiders

Don’t click the link if you have high blood pressure

 

##UPDATE###

Right on cue, Phil Hammond repeats the desire to do more in ‘homeland resilience’

As we bring our troops back from Afghanistan and from Germany, we would like to see the military playing a bigger role in this kind of homeland resilience task in the future

Despite doing the exact opposite for the last decade.

Expect to see a JDP 2/03 soon, closely followed by the Cat 1 Responders de-funding civil resilience, putting the MoD on Speed Dial and a future where the MoD says, guys, you know we have been telling you for the last decade to jog on, we were only joking.

I can hear the Champagne corks popping all over Local Authority finance departments as we speak, happy days, the MoD have got this.

Not sure the MoD actually fully understand what they are letting themselves in for, expectations of the general public and all that.

You also have to think about the impact on recruitment and retention

Join the Army, see the South of England, and sand bag it

Doesn’t have quite the kerbside appeal does it.

There’s always the Royal Navy I suppose icon smile A Look at the MoDs #Floods Response

 

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

70 Comments

  1. Engineer Tom

    Personally, I think the military was needed as they are reliable in an emergency and are disciplined, and also have suitable vehicles.

    To me the best PR for the army in ages was having Kay Burley anchoring Sky News on the bank of a flood and the Gurkhas proceeding to build a flood barrier straight through it without any protective gear. She was constantly singing their praises and chatting with their commanding officer. Sure beats any of the Valentine’s Day PR.

    This being said if we had a civil defence service or reserve they wouldn’t have been needed, to me the first step would be organising existing volunteer and government resources so they could be called upon easily and also covering off liability issues. Then specialist equipment should be looked into, how about maintaining ex military vehicles in a depot somewhere so they can be deployed to floods, or even just distributing them to at risk local authorities. Also the commercial sector should be looked at closely for suitable resources, with some process of guaranteeing payment if called in an emergency, sounds like I am saying they would refuse to help without money, but I am thinking about companies well out of the threat area where they have no incentive to help.

    All together my thoughts are military as a last resort were needed this time, next time they shouldn’t be, there are lessons to be learnt.

    Also quite amusing the only guy in my office who lives on a flood plain is the environmental safety assessor, gotta love the irony.

  2. mike

    The manpower and certain assets – like helicopters and in this case, specialist systems , is all the MoD can really offer, we dont have the manpower nor system in place to compare to the massive US Nation Guard/corps of engineers response that we see in US emergencies. Though as you point out, the GIS community already has such specialist equipment – again, this should be incorporated into our emergency services specialists and agencies.

  3. dave haine

    Suitably chastened…..but us still blames the EA, that overblown, resource-wasting, enviro-fascist, london elite.

    If they’d been honest…..and given the locals some say, and stake in their plan, they may well have got what they wanted, with the locals on their side.

    And now of course, their london apologists, are trying to say that the local council and the drainage boards are at fault, for the scope and longevity of the flooding. (Despite the fact the EA have ordered two of those huge dutch pumps turned off because of the erosion risk)

  4. Deja Vu

    Ref the inspection of the flood defences.

    As 170 Infra Engr Spt Gp https://www.army.mod.uk/royalengineers/units/28733.aspx is always heavily committed, and their work generally planned in advance, defence assets being used for defence purposes, the inspections will be disruptive.

    These inspections could be carried out by the PQEs from the reserve element, but if so why not employ the professional firms for whom the reserve PQEs work.

    Ho Hum as you say confusing and messy.

  5. Simon257

    @ TD
    Richard North’s site is good.
    When you see the images in the link below, of the River Parret at Burrowbridge, it doesn’t take a genius to see why their would be a problem with rising waters!
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84712

    These other articles are worth a read as well
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84689
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84694
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84705

    James Delingpole has left the Telegraph for Breitbart, here’s his first article for them. He has also linked Richard North’s site and the EA workers page that was linked elsewhere on TD

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/02/16/Lefty-Lies-UK-Floods

  6. RL

    Living in one of the flooded thames constituencys -occupying an elevated position luckily :) – and Double Entry Hammond just happening to be our local MP and, with the irony of him being SoS Defence and having barracks at Pirbright, Aldershot, Camberley, Gibraltar -just down the road from camberley, Hounslow, Welly B, all within 20ish miles of the flood zone, you would expect a major turn out, as soon as he got back to the constituency and saw the level of damage and anger in the local towns and villages.

    Not enough happened in the first day although it was well expected.

    Scandalous that it took SoS Defence to be a local to get things galvanised (but fair play in the end) and there should have been a far more comprehensive turnout far earlier in Somerset. We benefited more out of sheer luck I think than poor Somerset.

    (Plus there is support infrastructure for Heathrow around here of course and it has been carnage this week on the roads).

    It’s easy to say that aid of this kind takes away from training etc but when you see the general public flapping and in real distress, that’s exactly what the military should also be for. To bring a touch of order and “can do” to proceedings.

    Interventions like this make the defence budget easier to justify on the whole. People understand it and it is a real and visible benefit.

    Far better to turn out in a crisis and benefit from extra funding where possible, even if retrospective, than spending the extra money on a whole new civil defence bureaucracy.

    Some kind of mechanism from the treasury reserve if troops are called out?

    And haven’t we got enough bureaucrats as it is?

    As we have a number of admirals and brigadiers etc on staff couldn’t they rather easily provide some hours for regional civil defence planning and coordination?

    A different kind of bang for the public’s buck?

    Better PR too.

    Its an obvious idea, something the public would embrace perhaps.

    Sick to bloody death of hearing about “Gold Command” however.

  7. dave haine

    Case proved I think……

    Solution?
    Set up a Management Authority (Similar to a National Park), with responsibility for the whole of the Levels and Moors, out to the sea.

    Mission:
    To preserve, secure and protect the whole environment for the benefit of the communities and wildlife.

    Responsibilities:
    Flood Prevention and Mitigation, Water Management, Environmental Management, Economic Development, Habitat management, Planning Authority. Education and tourism.

    Structure:
    Board of Commissioners composed of elected local people, with fixed seats being given to the Chief Drainage Engineer, Environment Agency and County Council.
    Parish based teams, with a manager, full time staff and supplimented by part time staff and volunteers.
    Funded partly by government, partly by local drainage levy, and partly by sustainable tourism.

  8. Daniel Hodges

    Sorry have to have a rant i don’t want a single penny of my taxes spent on any of the floods if you live in a area that gets flood more fool you i live on a big hill in the west midlands and have had my fence blow down damage to my house because of the huge guests of wind do you see me screaming for the goverment come to my aid no i jave choosed to live here like the people who live in the flood plains and recliamed marshes don’t want to be flooded move if you want to stay then do somethink about it thourgth your local goverment please can we leave the eu out of it policy is implamented be national goverments thy are the ones who decide how policy is implamented not brussels end of rant

  9. dave haine

    @ Daniel Hodges
    Selfish….Where will you get your food from when the farmlands are all ruined?
    Lets be clear here, all the taxes that the rural communities paid over the years, went to protecting towns. So frankly we want all the taxes WE paid, spent where WE need them spent.

    They’re not YOUR taxes, everyone pays taxes and they should be spent for everyone’s benefit and safety.

    And as the Levels and Moors are not actually a flood plain- being approx 2-3m above sea level and have been drained since the 1700s. Also having your fence blown down is hardly the same as having your house and business inundated with up to 4m of water, as a deliberate act by a government agency saving money, operating under a ideological bias.

    The EU rules have had some part in the national disaster, that has befallen Somerset. Not as much as some would have you believe, its true.

  10. Daniel Hodges

    @David i am not selfish most farmers have dealt with this and are aware and if they have not got continganice plans in place more fool them as for householders if you are in living in low lying land then you must expect to be flooded lets be clear the flood defense around bridgewater tewkesbury bewdley and over places has worked which would have cost us the tax pay billoins now sea levels are rising with you belive climate warming or not they are rising coast errison is getting worse there comes a point were the cost of fighting mother nature becomes prohibative now if the people in low lying areas are prepred to pay for the improvments in the local infucstructure and for there homes to be rebuilit on 3 or 4 metre stilts then i suggest they move now i don’t mind if the goverment was to pay to move these people to higher ground as for my fence blowing down it has happened more than once in the last 2 years each time i have not replaced it as there is no point my neighbour on the over hand has more fool him as it only gets blown down this is my point how much does it cost to replace that fence £200 or £300 a time what waste we had floods in 2007 and again in 2014 it cost alot of money to defend places from flooding and as sea levels keep rising is not better to move like our ansctors did and let mother nature do what she wants

  11. Alex

    Does anyone imagine it wouldn’t have been the EU and ZaNuLiebour’s fault for Richard North, Christopher Booker, or James Delingpole? I could have written their response within three hours of the initial flood warning, and it wouldn’t have been any different if it had been a rabies outbreak, a computer virus, or an amphibious assault by Canadian forces.

    Also, apparently the Dutch have a machine for filling sandbags…that’s got to be up TD’s street. it might even fit in an ISO container.

  12. Think Defence

    That said, sandbags are so last century

    The Flood Protection Association and Sir Michael Pitt wanted them completely phased out because they are generally, useless for flood protection

    I feel a post coming on, thanks Alex

  13. Engineer Tom

    Problem is if we give up everywhere that is a flood plain we wouldn’t have half the housing, we would have to give up London to start with. Then people who have to work the land on flood plains will have to travel long distances to get to work.

    But we do need to think about how people live on flood plains, i.e. raised houses and have houses grouped in villages with a barrier around them, and not next to a river.

  14. tweckyspat

    Does anyone imagine it wouldn’t have been the EU and ZaNuLiebour’s fault for Richard North, Christopher Booker, or James Delingpole?

    Well said that man.

    It seems to have been missed by the eurosceptics that the Dutch and Belgians have managed a perfectly reasonable stab at serious flood defence on the North Sea coast (and inland) whilst remaining slightly more enthusiastic members of the EU

    Equally true that both countries appear to be able to take these long term infrastructure decisions without having decisive majority led Parliaments

    So I think it is lazy bloggery of the first order to suggest it’s all the EU’s fault. What i find baffling is that a national cultural and political system which has survived global conflicts and once maintained an empire doesn;t seem anymore to be able to do strategic planning of any kind. whether or not the toffs are in charge or the Eurocrats…

  15. John Hartley

    Before the Great Austerity, I liked a week of winter Sun in Gran Canaria. There you could have Sun on the beach while a storm raged in the mountains. So you did not get a flash flood in the resort, they built a storm channel. Basically a near straight man made river, lined with rocks & concrete. Usually, bone dry & used as a short cut to the beach. Hardly rocket science, but why do we not have them at vulnerable spots in the UK?

  16. Daniel Hodges

    @engineer tom right on we can not keep going on the way we are you are right about london and other places but small villages isloted houses houses next to rivers there are 20000 new homes going to bulit this year on flood plains and i bet that none are being bulit on stilts or the roads leading to them are 4 to 5 metres above the surounding area we need to plan better again pick the battles we can win and not contest the ones where mother nature will win

  17. DavidNiven

    ‘i bet that none are being bulit on stilts or the roads leading to them are 4 to 5 metres above the surounding area’

    That’s because there is nothing in building regs about flood mitigation, when the properties are being built on known flood plains. Simple legislation could fix that tomorrow.

  18. wf

    @tweckyspat: “It seems to have been missed by the eurosceptics that the Dutch and Belgians have managed a perfectly reasonable stab at serious flood defence on the North Sea coast (and inland) whilst remaining slightly more enthusiastic members of the EU”

    Because they had already built them when the regs were passed? And unlike the UK, were perfectly happy to ignore the regs when it suited them? It is noticeable that those happiest with EU regs tend to be those that reserve the right to ignore them when they feel like it.

  19. a

    Basically a near straight man made river, lined with rocks & concrete. Usually, bone dry & used as a short cut to the beach. Hardly rocket science, but why do we not have them at vulnerable spots in the UK?

    Because the problem in the UK is a different one. We aren’t suffering from flash floods – we’re suffering from sustained heavy rain over long periods. The volume of water in a flash flood is pretty small by comparison, the trouble is that it all arrives at once or at least over a short period.

    I am loving the “reliable sources” linked from this post. Everything from the Met Office to the Daily Mail, John Redwood’s Diary, and an anonymous person in a comments section somewhere who calls himself “Corporal Jones’ Ghost”.

    “Solution?
    Set up a Management Authority (Similar to a National Park), with responsibility for the whole of the Levels and Moors, out to the sea.
    Mission:
    To preserve, secure and protect the whole environment for the benefit of the communities and wildlife.
    Responsibilities:
    Flood Prevention and Mitigation, Water Management, Environmental Management, Economic Development, Habitat management, Planning Authority. Education and tourism.”

    Sounds like a great idea. That’s more or less what the Regional Government Offices did, until the Coalition disbanded them in 2010. They were unnecessary expense, you see. Bureaucracy. Little outposts of Whitehall. Much better to let local communities manage that sort of thing for themselves.

  20. Observer

    DavidNiven, so your answer to faster and better government response is more red tape? :)

    Best way to do it is to simply start a fad in new “stilt houses- don’t get flooded out tomorrow”. Think builders are going to be able to ride that wave for the next 20 years or so. Once bitten, twice shy, people are going to make decisions on things like flood resistance for homes for the next few years at least, until memory fades.

  21. topman

    @ Observer

    ‘until memory fades.’ Which will probably bee next month.;) I can’t see house on stilts being popular.

  22. Think Defence

    a, the links in the post that you refer to were not meant to be authoritative but to simply illustrate there is a range of opinion and that getting to the nub of the issue might be difficult in the current environment. Hence I linked to things like the Pitt Review that were post event, calm, measured and comprehensive.

    Did I use the words ‘reliable sources’ anywhere in the post?

  23. Derek

    Again with the humans shouldn’t be living on flood-plains nonsense. Human’s have been living on flood-plains for millennia, they were the cradle of many civilisations and living on them is actually quite easy. All that happened this time was the band of inept, greedy, self-serving eco-socialists who run the UK decided to stop providing sufficient flood defences. The end result was inevitable, lives and property ruined needlessly.

    As for the deranged ranting of people like George Monbiot, they all ignore the same simple reality. The only variable that has changed is the new found lack of commitment for UK flood defences by a political class that would rather steal money from the British people and give it to themselves and any country that comes asking,

  24. The Ginge

    Having read the thread so far if I could add my two peninth worth as somebody looking at this from the local council perspective.
    1. Firstly over the last 3yrs local council be they district or county level have been under incredible pressure to slash budgets from central Govenment. In my area of the world Suffolk, the budget over the next 3yrs is being cut by £150m from a total budget of £500m. With that budget already being cut by £90m to date. Within that $500m there is approximately £250m/£300m of statutory things the County Council has to do. Such as child welfare, paying for care homes etc etc. So although the Armed Forces can quite rightly complain of “cuts” local coucils have been hit the hardest over the length of this parliment.
    2. Providing “crisis” management is not a statutory duty. Providing emergency shelters etc is, but the budget for this is minimal, is provided by 2 bodies in County and Borough/District Councils both of whom are trying to this for the least money possible.
    3. Councils no longer have huge staffs. In Suffolk, Ipswich Borough Council used to employ 100′s of staff on council house maintenance, road repairs, care homes, dustmen. All of whom could be redeployed in an emergency to assist. Be it heavy snow for additional gritting, or flooding filling and laying sandbags. Over the last 30yrs all that work has been outsourced. No contractor is going to put it’s staff and equipment in harms way unless they are being paid considerable excess payments on top of their existing contracts. In fact apart from a few office workers councils employ directly very few people. Even those checking you street lights are contractors.
    4. Equipment. Again as councils have been driven to use normal commercial accounting practice over the last 30yrs driven by the need for efficiancy things have changed. So a piece of kit standing in a yard such as a large 6×6 tipper truck depreciates. it has a cost even if it was paid for years ago. As a capital assit it attracts interest on the capital employed on keeping it. So councils have sold all their equipment so as not to get penalised by having these figures deducted from the budget, even though in reality it cost them nothing. But on a spreadsheet it cost a lot. Hence why you never see any of the old AEC/Bedford ex army circa 1960 trucks being used or any council snapping up some of the ex Army Drops trucks on sale for peanuts at the moment. Hence why none of the councils involved has the right equipment. To give you an example in Suffolk we really on a voluntary group of 4×4 enthusiasts who do a brialliant job to provide the ability to move ambulance staff and police offices around the county when it snows. Why because all the blue light services which always had 4×4′s have got rid of them because for 90% of the time cars/vans will do, plus be considerably cheaper. In an age of austerity 90% is good enough, errr untill it’s not. A warning to the MOD.
    5. Regional provision. This is were real problems start. For example Essex Police and Fire Brigade have huge responsability to support London on issues. They used to spend a lot of money on these things, but not now. Why because for a lot of it they never got the true value from cental govenement of running the services. A lot of councils have got caught like this, so apart from providing local coordinaion staff they are very reluctant to provide any substantial capacity.

    Now bearing this in mind it is only because of dedicated actions of certain agencies and Govenment Dept’s that we have had any form of responce at all. If you look at the chaos of Gold Command, Silver Command, Bronze Command all trying to knit together 100′s of individual contributors all with no local control of command hierachy. IE a local council employee and flood warden who has lived in an area for 30yrs knows where to put certain defences, the young Enviroment Agency manager just out of Uni with a degree in water management actually places the barrier. The only way that gets changed is to go all the way up the chain of command to Gold Command to overule the Enviroment Agencies preordained mapped sollution.
    So chaos, delay, indecision and lack of communication happens.

    Hence why people cry call out “call in the Army” because they have a can do, crack on attitude with a good dose of common sense, with people on the ground with a clear command structure who can make decisions.

    So that’s the problem from a “Council” perspective, I’ll post tonight what I see as the solution.

  25. Observer

    TD, I know, but too much regs can slow things down a bit too massively.

    As an example, my sis, as an architect, has to design buildings which conform to the fire safety code, the handicap access code, the blast resistance code, the ecological impact (or something along that name) code, flood control code etc.

    All this equals to a massive headache. Fun to watch though when both my uncle and her (architects, the lot of them) had to take a wheelchair for a spin to test building layouts. They took turns pushing each other while the rest of the family looked on rather bemusedly.

  26. DavidNiven

    DavidNiven, so your answer to faster and better government response is more red tape?

    Its red tape that exists already, all materials in used in the construction have to be of British standard to begin with and then the Buildings regulations set out the minimum quality and specifications to be used to ensure the property is not only structurally sound but every other aspect meets legislation.So the distance between floor joists and maximum length of span have to be met within the regulations, along with the minimum levels of insulation etc. It would just be a matter of adding a few specifications for flood prevention to be added, minimum foundation specs for soil types already exist etc.

    They exist so that every home is built to a standard regardless of the amount of money the developer wants to spend, which will always be just enough to meet the minimum requirements, therefore they are an important aspect to development.

    Should we should start to address the individual homes subject to flooding with building regulations and keep the big guns of major flood defences (the tax payers part) for critical infrastructure?

  27. Daniel Hodges

    @Derek so when the wind blows down my fence it is the goverment’s responsability to repair snd fix my fence then and its the goverments responsability to make sure that the wind gets disapatied before it gets to my fence utter crap you live on a flood plain and don’t want to get flooded then make changes to your property so you don’t get flooded your responsability you have bisness on a flood plain make sure you can still oparate when everywhere is flooded i am not saying that the goverment can not help but it not like that this sort of think isn’t going to happen again it will and it is as much a responsability of the people livibg there as it is the goverments

  28. IXION

    OK

    Back from sulking in the corner…..

    Floods know a bit about this stuff as I was raised in the Cambridgeshire Fens. (No genetic link to that shallow end of the gene pool:- around the world people shout revolution revolution! Give us guns- in the fens it’s evolution evolution! Give us thumbs).

    I was raised 5 feet below sea level, man made landscape and all that: – went thru the late 70′s floods and the Carlisle 2005 floods.

    I) UK is perhaps the most man made landscape in Europe after the Dutch.

    2) If the major and centuries old tradition of ditches, dykes, drains, sea defences and pumping is abandoned on an alter of managed retreat, or environmentally friendly to newts naturalism. (BTW both of those are politician speak for when presented with the bill for ‘hard defences’ saying: – How much???! Fu*k off if you think I am writing a cheque for that!! And ALL the parties have been playing that trick for 20years). Then some very big areas of this country- in many cases it’s most productive agricultural land and some pretty large conurbations. will have to be abandoned.

    3)THAT is a defence issue as Billions will have to be spent resettling people, business etc. Many more billions spent on importing food we no longer produce. We are too crowded an Island to do this. Take a look at a map draw a line from Lincoln down to Peterborough, then to Lakenheath and up to Kings Lynn. Then kiss pretty much all of it all goodbye. All that agriculture all that industry all the houses etc etc.

    4) You can do the same on the Somerset Levels chunks of coast around the country, AND big bits of the Thames valley. The last bit really matters coz its where rich southern media metrosexuals and Tory’s live. VERY Noticeable that the levels were under water for a month before anyone gave a media toss, but when it hit Hampshire and Berkshire you couldn’t move for John Snow’s and other journalistic luminaries….

    5) With regard to the MOD involvement this is like the Navy with it’s coastgurdophobia. (YOU know the, ‘we’re not floating Rozzers, but we don’t want anyone else doing it as it will come out of our budget: – followed be a press release of HMS Sharppointyfastandsexy, catching criminals. you know just just like floating rozzers do……

    The army don’t want the ‘Join the army and literally shovel shit’ (or at least help pump it). But on the other hand the site of ‘Our boys’ slapping down sand bags saving widows orphans and pusssycats, is publicity heaven for a wing of the armed forces that is a bit ‘high and dry’ at the moment, and could do with all the media friends it could get. How many sandbags can RT’s combat unicycle carry???

    Perhaps if the army is looking for being saved from further cuts accepting a bigger civil defence role might be a realistic way of keeping big numbers of engineers and infantry units in existence until needed???

    After all the US army corps of engineers has been ‘at war’ with the Mississippi and its tributaries, for about a hundred years. They even have GBFO machines that lay canal channels like half one of those tunnel boring machines. And theirs float!

    But none of this will happen:-

    Politician’s thought process….

    1) Phase one:- ignore it its just a bit wet
    2) Phase two: – somewhere not very important has flooded
    3) Phase three: – somewhere not very important still flooded?? I’m sure it will all sort itself out
    4) Phase four: – Shit the media have noticed ‘whose in charge of this shit?
    5) Phase five:- Media storm get Wellies on and get down there to (photoppourtunity) ‘see for ourselves’ and reassure public it’s all under control
    6) Phase six:- Fu*k me look at all (these soggy angry voters), this water quick blame:-

    Gays (yes seriously).
    Global warming
    Not global warming
    The last government
    The environment agency
    The people who live there
    Farmers
    Some bloke we met in a pub
    Anyone but us

    7) Phase 7:- OMG bits of the country where rich people live are flooding! Quick Promise the earth money no object we must save the jewel in our nations crown….. Henley on Thames…

    8) Phase 8:-The waters are receding lessons will need to be learned we will appoint a royal commission / enquiry.

    9) Phase 9: 3 years hence commission reports back.

    10) Phase 10:-

    HOW MUCH YOUR HAVING A FU*KING LAUGH IF YOU THINK I’M SIGNING A CHEQUE FOR THAT!!!!. ………………….. We’ll hand out a few sandbags and leaflets and call it green flood defences, after all think of the newts…………

  29. Observer

    Well, you can design the lower floors as garages. Stilts yes, but surround them with 3 walls, even thin ones, and a door and voila, a garage. The living areas can be on the 2nd floor and above. Flat roof for possible heli-vac and you got a fairly secure area. Provided the waters don’t hit 5m+.

    Sucks about the car though.

    Bets will now be taken that once you take all the anti-flood measures, the next disaster would be an earthquake instead? :P

  30. Derek

    DH,

    The government never took responsibility for wind. It did take responsibility for flood defences and confiscated the tax with which to do that. Not to mention government also being responsible for the planning policy that makes flood plains attractive places to build houses.

    I would love for taxation to be reduced, government shrunk and people put in charge of looking after their own property- but that has not happened. Government took responsibility for flood defence and confiscated the money to fund, it then decided to to donate that money to India instead so it is governments responsibility.

  31. tweckyspat

    wf:
    Because they had already built them when the regs were passed? And unlike the UK, were perfectly happy to ignore the regs when it suited them?

    I don’t think so. If you can point to Dutch operating outside EU rules on water management I stand by to be corrected.

    Both Netherlands and East Anglia flooded terribly in 1953. 60 years on look and see who has done a better job responding to the threat. Falling back on eurosceptic ad hominem ranting doesn’t change the analysis. They have had a strategic plan, and resourced it. They are not perfect, but they prioritise.

  32. wf

    @tweckyspat: no ranting from me :-)

    The EU Directives referred to were published over the last decade, I’m not sure you can compare flood defence policy all the way back to the 50′s when others are talking about just the former.

    Have the Dutch stopped pumping on the polder? I hadn’t noticed!

  33. DavidNiven

    So the reason my plug sockets are the same level as my eye line when I’m sat watching TV is because of them?

    Thanks lads you f****ing ruined my barn conversion, whinging t**ts!

    (Before any one goes of on one, that’s an example of my dark and dry, so called humour, I wouldn’t want to be called cretin again!)

  34. Observer

    Not worried about your so called humour, I’m more worried about your so called logic. :P

    Darn, his leg’s still on. Got to pull it a bit harder.

    When a Frenchman starts ordering croutons from you even though you’re not a waiter, he’s actually trying to call you a cretin. “Crouton!! Crouton!!”

    If people insult others by calling them cretins, what do people from Crete call others when they want to insult them? Turks?

  35. dave haine

    @ Daniel Hodges
    You are just selfish….I thought we were one nation that looked after all its people, that helped everyone when they needed help.
    And please read my post, the Levels and Moors are not flood plains, they’re coastal plains and wetlands. They’re also 1-3m above sea level, so the only flooding they normally experience is winter flooding, which occurs regularly, and briefly. This 7 week flood is not normal, and the rainfall we’ve had is only the 17th highest rainfall recorded. The houses are all built on the higher ground, and have been for 600yrs.

    I say again, having your fence blown down is hardly the same as having your house or business or both flooded to second floor height, because a government agency, couldn’t be arsed to maintain an environment that has existed since roman times, much preferring to put wildlife before people.

    And to be frank, the Levels and Moors, used to have a proper water management programme that worked, and ensured that the various SSSI’s and SPA’s survived and flourished. Because of a government agencies ineptitude, and frankly utter contempt for the people it was meant to serve, some of those habitats have been destroyed. It is conservatively estimated that they will take ten years to recover.

    In fact after 7 weeks+ of inundation, the farmland will be useless too, so 2% of the nations highest grade grazing land is shagged, and will be for at least two years. The economic damage to the rural communities, on the Levels & Moors is already becoming apparent.

    Shame really, because dredging costs approx £7500 per 1.2km. And only has to be done on a rotating basis, once every two years. So that would have been a yearly cost of £174,000, add in Sluice and clyse maintenance another £100,000. So for, roughly £300k a year, the floods impact would have been dramatically reduced. Instead we are looking at an estimated £100m just to restore the flood defences we have got, let alone carry out the improvements that the EA should have made.

    And here’s a final question, as one of the mitigation measures is re-wooding highland areas, and as you live on a hill, are you going to accept the government telling you to leave so they can knock down your house to reestablish the woodlands that would have once been there, maybe 300-400 yrs ago?

    Because that’s precisely what you’re saying the majority of the population of Somerset, should do….

  36. Chris.B.

    @ Daniel Hodges,

    Based on your theory, I have decided that as a taxpayer in Essex I’m not happy to have my money spent on improving your local roads. I demand the government immediately cease any work on major roads leading to or around your town or any financial assistance given to your local airports. I demand that money raised in the East be spent only in the East. If you don’t like it, tough, you should have opted to live closer to the greatest county in England. By the way we’re cutting off Tillbury, only goods delivered to Essex shall be allowed to pass. We’ve also got in touch with the chaps at Felixstowe. They’ve agreed a Suffolk only policy. If you want anything imported into to your town you must spend your own money and have it carried from the coast.

  37. Daniel Hodges

    @ David Haine yes i would move i am saying if you live in a area that gets flooded regular then it is only sensible to protect what you have and to not realy on anybody elise to come to my aid thats how i was brought up may be i am in a minority here you miss my point on my fence if somethink gets destroyed or damaged on a regular basis and it is a force of nature everytime then it teachs me to change what i do

  38. dave haine

    @ IXION
    Welcome back….
    Is that why everyone is a bit taller in the Fens? As a flood mitigation measure?
    But, at least in the Broads and Fens, you beat the EA off with a stick, thereby stopping the buggers from their underhand way of putting the newts and little birdies first.

    The thing is- Somerset was a solid conservative, with a small ‘c’, county. I suspect that this will not be the case in the very near future….about which all the local councillors and MPs are, and I quote, “like a cow with the shits” (from my local conservative councillor).

    @ DavidNiven

    I’m confused now…do you want to be called a cretin? Or are you ordering croutons?

    In my house the sockets are still on the skirting boards, where the victorian electrickeror put them. Every so often you can imagine my squeals of delight, as I discover another piece of victorian electrical engineering. Mind you, the piece de resistance was the dodgy yank wiring in the loft (a previous owner was an american-who had no truck with UK wiring regs).

  39. Daniel Hodges

    @Chris b thats fine by me as both local councils in the 2 major citys that i live between are annoceing 3000 or is 4000 job cuts it seems your wish has already been granted also if you like you can come and see my road it hasn’t been resurfaced in the last 11 years so my taxes haven’t been spent round my aera it dosn’t make differance to me

  40. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @The Ginge…as a thirty-year man at t’Town ‘all in a Great (Gloomy) Northern City all I can do is enjoy the verse and add the chorus…which is that even as a very useful blue-collar workforce in depots with bloody big diggers was being privatized, Local Government was getting more and more Legal Duties for what can only really be described as social engineering of one sort or another, which obviously required white collar staff, mostly from courses of dubious provenance at the Poly…and as we all know it is an immutable law of organisational life that whilst privatizing blue-collar jobs is always (assumed) to save costs, using “Consultants” to do white-collar ones never does, so they all stay on the public payroll for thirty years before leaving to become “Consultants” and top up their pensions…so all our useful depots full of tough lads willing to shovel are gone, but we have driven up the cost of city-centre office space immeasurably.

    Mind you, not fair to blame Westminster for all of this. When I started in the 80′s the “New Political Class” which now dominates that august institution across all parties was just beginning to emerge, and quite frankly they loved the idea of Local Government as a consciousness raising operation (much like the Students Union)…and were much less enamoured of the dull but necessary tarmac and shovel stuff that required a hard hat and steel toe-caps…

    The reason round here was that they were mostly Suburban Trots with politics degrees, and were perfectly appalled at finding themselves the Boss Class taking on the Trade Unions to force down costs sufficiently to keep contracts in house even in the face of Compulsory Competitive Tendering…which I can tell you for free could have been done, and might have been by a previous generation of City Councillors who came from a very different background.

    @IXION – welcome back – sadly, I can find little in your first contribution to disagree with, but I am hopeful you will get into your stride before long… :-)

    GNB

  41. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @The Ginge…as a thirty-year man at t’Town ‘all in a Great (Gloomy) Northern City all I can do is enjoy the verse and add the chorus…which is that even as a very useful blue-collar workforce in depots with bloody big diggers was being privatized, Local Government was getting more and more Legal Duties for what can only really be described as social engineering of one sort or another, which obviously required white collar staff, mostly from courses of dubious provenance at the Poly…and as we all know it is an immutable law of organisational life that whilst privatizing blue-collar jobs is always (assumed) to save costs, using “Consultants” to do white-collar ones never does, so they all stay on the public payroll for thirty years before leaving to become “Consultants” and top up their pensions…so all our useful depots full of tough lads willing to shovel are gone, but we have driven up the cost of city-centre office space immeasurably.

    Mind you, not fair to blame Westminster for all of this. When I started in the 80′s the “New Political Class” which now dominates that august institution across all parties was just beginning to emerge, and quite frankly they loved the idea of Local Government as a consciousness raising operation (much like the Students Union)…and were much less enamoured of the dull but necessary tarmac and shovel stuff that required a hard hat and steel toe-caps…

    The reason round here was that they were mostly Suburban Trots with politics degrees, and were perfectly appalled at finding themselves the Boss Class taking on the Trade Unions to force down costs sufficiently to keep contracts in house even in the face of Compulsory Competitive Tendering…which I can tell you for free could have been done, and might have been by a previous generation of City Councillors who came from a very different background.

    @IXION – welcome back – sadly, I can find little in your first contribution to disagree with, but I am hopeful you will get into your stride before long… :-)

    GNB

  42. Phil

    Two big lessons that we’ve already learned about floods.

    LESSON ONE: flooding has a myriad of causes, all linked directly or indirectly to the interaction between natural events (which we cannot pro-actively prevent but can respond to) and human activity (which we can pro-actively prevent in many cases). Thus any response to floods needs to take into account the concept of “myriad” across nature, accros the human population and across the interaction of these two things. That leaves a complex problem to solve.

    LESSON TWO: Humans are shit at solving complex problems that involve huge numbers of individual and social actors all with different and interlinked demands, objectives and activities. Cut in some overwhelmingly powerful natural forces and we’re in a land of shit.

    So to my mind the conclusion is as follows:

    We can tackle flooding where the causes and/or defences are obvious and clear and few interests and agenda’s are encroached on. This still leaves a huge swathe of possible flood causes and permutations – therefore resilience must take priority. I’d suggest a 35-65 split between prevention and resilience.

    I think that should set the grand direction.

  43. dave haine

    @ Daniel Hodges

    No…what you’re saying is I’m alright jack. And frankly, avoiding the very basic truth, that a government agency, through inaction, either deliberately, or because of incompetence, and neglect, allowed the normal winter flooding to get to 3 to 4 metres, and hang around for 7 weeks. And the waters are still rising.

    So why should the people of Somerset pay with their livelihoods or their homes, for government incompetence, or worse a deliberate act to force people off the levels and moors, to save towns and cities that have been allowed to expand into areas where they shouldn’t, or to create a new habitat for wildlife, that had disappeared, 4 centuries ago.

    The simple fact is the Levels and Moors, used to flood every winter, usually for about three or four days at a time. Because, there was a water level management programme, the waters went away quickly, and very rarely rose above two feet, which as all the houses for the last 600yrs have been built on higher ground, was no problem. The silt from the dredging was used either, to build up the banks, or put on the fields to improve the soil. Winter flooding was part of life, we dealt with it and it was part of the character of the area we love and live in.

    And now, all the left-wing, enviro-fascists, are towing out all these self-proclaimed experts, who frankly, every time they opine on the subject demonstrate their wilful ignorance, and their disregard of empirical evidence, to make sure they force their ideology on us, ensuring that there won’t be a debate, because how dare someone disagree with them, in case the inconvenient truth demonstrates the holes in their theory.

    That’s all I’m going to say to you, because it’s obvious that you don’t care, anyway.

  44. Red Trousers

    This is going to get complex with @ 2 x DHs arguing the case for and against the long suffering and grossly let down farmers of the levels. I’m on DH’s side (the one that can manage an airfield, not the one that thinks having a fence panel blown down is equivalent to having your dairy 4 feet deep in water, losing £90,000 of milking equipment, a nine week delay for new machinery, the bill for shifting your cattle to Devon, and longer term effects such as loss of yield and increased miscarriages which will string the effect into next year). But what do I know? Perhaps fence panels have other attributes worth caring about.

  45. Red Trousers

    ….and I’ve just heard from a Somerset badger, who just wants the sodding water taken away so that he can get on with infecting cattle with TB. Complex place, the countryside. Best not left to townies and short term thinking, particularly when actively managed land is vital to things like basic food supply.

    Who has yet made the correlation between milk production, prices, and to the fact that at a micro-level in local areas, farmers actively contribute to all sorts of things in ways difficult to measure financially. If £5million is saved by not dredging (EA), who counts the loss of livelihood of 3 farmers driven out of business, or the wider community effects.

    RT is not a natural revolutionary nor socialist, but if I was, I suspect I’d be at the violent end. One of those excitingly mad French types who renamed the months (GNB can no doubt supply the historical details: months such as Brumaire and Lobster Thermidor). But I do know that if you are a Government and foolishly fuck with the way the countryside is organised to supply food to our now mostly urban population, or worse, don’t have a Scooby as to cause and effect, you’ll get bitten on the arse.

  46. wf

    @Chris.B : heh

    @dave haine, @Red Trousers, agreed. Conservative with a small “c”, with the glaring exception of Shepton Mallet :-)

    @Phil: I suspect the solution to the prevention / adaptation equation lies not in dividing up Government spending between the two, but in focusing the latter on prevention, since such actions as building dams and flood defences are items that require political action. Unless you are a builder with your own fleet of JCB’s :-)

    For adaptation, clearly the majority of the benefits and costs lie with individual house and property owners. Long term, removing subsidies on insurance and the like will bring about adaptation and resilience.

  47. Phil

    I suspect the solution to the prevention / adaptation equation lies not in dividing up Government spending between the two, but in focusing the latter on prevention, since such actions as building dams and flood defences are items that require political action

    The active defences are the easy part. But to properly manage flooding one needs to delve into land use. We ALL use the land, we all have a dog in that hunt. But you can’t accommodate everyone. So there will always be floods, active defences and some measure of adaptations to land use will cut a chunk of the flooding away. But that still leaves a lot of potential for flooding – so best to be resilient about it.

    I’m usually a prevention man. But I don’t believe we have the ability to get much done in the way of real prevention because of too many interests at stake. So in this case it’s not that I don’t think prevention would be better, it would be, I just see no realistic chance of it happening.

  48. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – devised by a Committee whose Rapporteur was Charkes-Gilbert Romme…and we are just coming to the end of the month Pluviose (Rainy!)…also featured three ten-day weeks a month, so for heavens sake don’t mention it to the CBI…probably already in use down @Observer’s way mind you… :-)

    GNB

  49. dave haine

    Just for the record:
    Communities evacuated: Moorland, Saltmoor, Northmoor, Aller,
    Communities cut-off: Muchelny, East Lyng, Oathe, Staithe
    Communties in danger: Burrowbridge, Langport.

    60 rural businesses not operating.

    65,0000 hectares of farmland underwater.

  50. Brian Black

    Why can’t the government round up the unemployed to fill sandbags? It’s a common claim, that people are willing to work but there are no jobs – so bus in JSA claimants, who must surely be cheaper than professional warfighters.

    Building houses on stilts was mentioned above. The press will always seek out the most dramatic images -the houses with ground floors almost completely submerged- but many flood affected homeowners will see thousands of pounds worth of damage from water levels that wouldn’t threaten a pair of wellies.

    Building regs call for only a 150mm gap (a couple of courses of bricks) between ground level and damp-proof course. As the regulations are mainly concerned with splash effects and regular run-off rather than flooding, the damp-proof course could even be lower if there is channel around the property. Standing water half way up your wellies could ruin your floors, carpets, furniture, appliances, skirting, and plaster.

    It might be worthwhile to require new properties to withstand 300mm of standing water as a standard; maybe 500mm in areas near rivers or within areas already protected by flood defences.

    Developers won’t add additional costs themselves; they want to sell houses, and probably couldn’t care less if the property is destroyed the next day. Changes to regulations are needed to increase resilience to flooding. If you’re building your house on stilts, you’re probably building in the wrong place; but 300-500mm, in conjunction with other flood defences, could prevent many homes from being ruined. It would cost more for a new build, but insurance premiums could be lower, and flood costs avoided, and money could be saved over the term of a homeowner’s occupancy.

    I agree with Farage, that some aid money should be spent at home. A billion spent on flood defences (and another spent on measures to reduce our personal impact on climate change, and another on defence equipment while we’re at it) would give us excellent infrastructure within a few years, as well as providing a boost to our shaky economy.

  51. Observer

    Didn’t want to mention it Gloomy cause it’ll spread more gloom, but we’re having a dry spell over here. I have a sneaky suspicion where all the water went.

  52. wf

    Well, I can report the river Parratt at Burrowbridge is still six inches from overflow this morning. Lots of RE with red berets around :-)

  53. Daniel Hodges

    The selfesh one is back and after reading and listening to several experts and watching some intelligent households i have come to the following concluesion that there was mismanagment on behalf off goverment departments due to lack of funds but there was allso a mentaillty on behalf of some of the people in said areas effected of if it happens again the goverment and insruance companys will bail us out again this is what i find down right disgusting one family after being flooded in for 3 times in a year talked to there insurance company and builders about what they could do to make there property flood restant guess what they told them how and that it would cost about £12000.00 extra and that they would have to pay now i would just like to say on record that if the goverment had then came to them and said we will use tax pays money to meet half the cost i would of personnaly taken my share of my tax money to them that is yhe point i am trying to make flooding is nothing new it happens year in year out to differing degrees so if i live in a area that floods i would plan for the worst case senerio somethink alot of people didn’t i shall now regress to the little hole some members think i should stay in

  54. Simon257

    One question that needs to asked and to me, it is of extreme importance. Is how big an influence do the Green and Enviromental NGO’s have on the UK Government and it’s Agencies.

    As they are having a detrimental effect on the UK. Whether that is effecting Energy Policies or Dredging rivers? It seems a flower or a water vole has more political influence than a UK citizen!

Comments are closed.

↓