Chris Blythe: Floods expose our housing failings
This year will be remembered for the severity of the weather and in particular the flooding across the south west of England and along the rivers Severn and Thames.
In addition, the January storms have emphasised how feeble we are when subjected to extreme weather. The way sea defences just crumbled under the onslaught of the high tides was both fascinating and frightening.
There are calls for the coastal areas to be abandoned because the cost of protecting them might be unaffordable. It might also be the case that it is not just the cost; the technical solutions might not be available either.
“Building designs need to change and if that affects the cost of buildings then so be it. It should be a cost borne by the house builders as a condition for building on dodgy land.”
The scale of the flooding, especially in the densely packed south east, does beg questions of our housing policy. It seems pointless building on floodplains if the sort of devastation we have seen recently is to be a feature of the future. Getting flooded is bad enough but when it is accompanied by raw sewage and the resultant health risks, it is enough to make us all stop and think.
Building designs need to change and if that affects the cost of buildings then so be it. It should be a cost borne by the house builders as a condition for building on dodgy land. Politically there are issues, of course. If politicians decided that all that flood plain land was unfit for building and should be used as flood plains, there would be howls from the house builders along with the drop in their share prices.
But the most disturbing part of the whole episode has been the disparate and desperate band of politicians looking for their own political angle on the disaster.
The recent weather has been unprecedented both in terms of severity and frequency. It is not just a UK matter either. In the US Deep South, for example, they are having unprecedented ice and snow storms caused by arctic air pushing south and moving the Jetstream with it. Atlanta was caught out by the first snow storm it had, but not by the second. Solid leadership led to states of emergencies being called, snow ploughs organised, airports shut, schools closed and extra support laid on from states unaffected by the weather extremes.
Our response has been to continue to be unprepared and believe that we can carry on as though nothing is happening, with a few soldiers filling sandbags.
In a peculiarly British way, we go about things the hard way, with ordinary people doing heroic things whilst those in charge struggle to get to grips with the situation.