A huge amount of water passes through the Fens, England’s natural and lowest basin, from the middle counties.
In the Fens, and elsewhere, unless directed efficiently water will find a way and this is happening in the devastated areas of the north country.
Three hundred years of experience in our Fens serves the inhabitants extraordinarily well. In the north, misjudgement and lack of dredging to deepen river beds has ended in calamity for businesses and home owners. Somerset experienced similar problems.
Bureaucracy is partly at fault. Brussels has banned dredging and so-called ‘green’ policies back irrational thinking. More interference by individuals in high places who lack knowledge in the maintenance of rivers.
Much of the problem rests with the European Water Framework Directive forced on to us for inclusion in UK law.
I have not seen a dredger in the Fens for a long time. Dredging allows water to run off quickly. Lack of dredging and failing to control riverside vegetation leads to higher water levels and reduces the flow.
This was understood in the Fens 160 years ago. At March able-bodied men of the five wards were obliged to dam the river and dig out silt.
At Wisbech in the mid-14th century all workless men receiving the dole (benefits) were obliged to deepen the New River Nene and cut back vegetation. If any man refused, he received no dole.
In the Fens we are able to control water by discharging it into the sea, holding it back and allowing it to overflow man-made washland.
An abject lesson should be learned. Buildings should not be erected on flood-plains, but this is being done.
We must learn to work with nature, not against it.
The Middle Level in the Fens protects about 24,000 buildings from serious flooding and the North and South Levels are equally responsible for the management of their low-lying areas.
Don’t turn a blind eye
The number of rough sleepers across England as a whole has also risen, though the problem is more acute in London.
Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government(DCLG) earlier this year show that across the UK 2,744 people slept rough on any one night in 2014 – up 14% on the previous 12 months.
Homeless charity Crisis said the rise was caused by cuts to benefits, a chronic housing shortage and the “longstanding legal injustice” where many homeless people are not considered a priority for help.
Charities said the trend was deeply concerning, and called for action at the national and EU level.
“The rise in homelessness has been caused by a toxic mix of government failures: allowing London’s housing crisis to go from bad to worse with fewer genuinely affordable properties available every year, cuts to social care and local authority funding which means there is less support for people who are at immediate risk of becoming homeless, and direct cuts to grants and programmes for organisations that tackle homelessness.
“Taken together it’s had a devastating effect.”
Labour tackled the problem of rough sleeping, and we’ll do it again now. We have a moral responsibility to tackle rough sleeping and not to turn a blind eye.
The latest figures were gathered by the Combined Homelessness Information Network (Chain), which is commissioned and funded by the mayor of London’s office and managed by St Mungo’s.
The charity said the causes of the rise in rough sleeping, which had to be addressed, included:
• Cuts in council funding that mean many authorities struggle to find housing even for those in the direst need.
• The growing number of people coming from the EU to find work who end up sleeping rough after being exploited by employers.
• Housing benefit cuts and an insufficient supply of genuinely affordable housing.
• Cuts to mental health services that leave many vulnerable people with nowhere else to go.
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