The Rector of Rawreth , Paul Trathen, was on BBC Essex yesterday talking about flooding and housing in Rawreth to their presenter Jerry Hayes,
You can find it on the BBC iplayer here for the next few days – it starts after 1 hour 9 minutes.
Here’s a transcript:
[after playing a Whitney Houston track]
On the line I’ve got Father Paul Trathen who’s the parish priest at Rawreth which is heavily affected by flooding. Father Paul , nice to hear from you. What have you got to tell us?
Hi Jerry . I’ve heard my parish mentioned so many times in your bulletins today I thought I would call in
- Absolutely –
PT – because it’s pretty much gridlocked here today. We’ve got at one edge of the parish 5 feet of standing water and of course the parish is also bounded by the River Crouch going through Battlesbridge.
JH [sympathetic groan]
PT obviously we have both water that comes from runoff and floodwater as the river swells and retreats. We have been very badly affected here.
JH Well, tell us how badly affected . I mean have there been people flooded out of their homes?
PT I’ve not been able to get out and about. For obvious reasons.
Jh Looking out of the – I don’t know – are you a Catholic priest?
PT – This is the Anglican parish
JH Anglican – So if you look out of your vicarage
PT I am at the highest point the church and the rectory – and I shouldn’t feel too smug about this – are at the highest point in the parish
JH – So you are a High Anglican?!
PT Yes… Um… One of the reasons I called in was…. I’ve been the parish priest for 4 years now. It seemed to be about a year into my time as our district council were making noises about wanting to do substantial new building into Rawreth.
JH … oh..
PT .. that we should think very carefully about a number of aspects but not least the flooding. We drew up a very careful parish plan from councillors, myself, and some other interested people and submitted it to the district council. Suggesting, you know, that our history of flooding made it very unwise having so much more concrete on the top part of this parish. I feel the case is strengthened every time we have this.
JH So what did they say to that Paul? Did they call it rubbish or what?
Pt They simply blindsided it as far as I’m concerned and pressed on. There’s a prime bit of land on the edges of Rawreth and Rayleigh to build on and there are other good reasons for thinking about it
JH – yeah-
PT – but it does seem to me that our arguments in our parish plan were very solidly about flood risk are very substantial.
JH – Well, I hope that people will write to the chairman of the parish council and get some answers. Because you warned didn’t you!
PT Don’t write to the chair of the parish council. The parish council was with me saying these things. It’s the district council
JH Oh it’s the district council?
PT the Parish Council have been very very consistent with me and others at trying to get a more intelligent look at everything rather than just trying to grab land for a quick buck. All your callers have talked about runoff and people concreting over and so on. This would be on a very large scale for this parish
JH So all this advice that you gave, the parish council gave at the possibility of flooding from this building was totally ignored. What did they say?-
PT Also we;ve been trying to have someone from the environment agency come and speak to us about it for some 6 months now and most recently the beginning of this month. And the environment agency prson who was due to come to the parish council at the start of this month just simply didn’t turn up.
JH [sigh] Oh dear oh dear So you’ve got to forgive them but I don;t know about anyone else
Jh So what’s the next move? What are you going to have to do?
PT Well I think we have to take good evidence on this. I know that some of the parish councillors and others last time we had some flooding went around and documented carefully, took photographs and measurements and so forth. I think, you know, that will happen again and we will present another file of evidence. And ask for it to be taken a bit more seriously.
JT Well that;s right. So when is this building meant to continue?
PT Well at the moment that’s a dintersting one because it was meant to be starting fairly urgently but in fact the incoming new coalition government is giving local authorities the right to rethink the way has meant all our district councillors have sort of made it someone else’s problem a few years down the line. So they are putting it off for political convenience but not because they are thinking about the flooding risks.
Well I suspect there’s going to be rather worried councillors in your area come May time because there are elections.
PT Absolutely. I hope they will hold them to account for it.
JH Could you hang on in there. I’ve got Andrew from Hadleigh. You want to talk about building on flood plains as well. What are you going to tell us:
AfH: Well I can’t go into the detail of what your other listener’s got. But all i can say is that generally you can’t not build on flood plains. All of London’s nearly built on a flood plain.
JH – of course-
AfH as are most major cities in Britain because they’ve all been built up around rivers. The thing is over time the defences have built up around them.
JH – hence the Thames Barrage and are all that –
AfH – to protect them. In the long term we just have to think about protecting the places on rivers or potential flood plains. Apart from anything else we’ve got a terrible chronic housing shortage and we can’t just stop building housing because somewhere might be flooded. You can’t build them on sides of hills because then they are subject to landslips and uh, mud. If you’ve got a nice high plateau that one’s thing. … as I say we have to clear out the ditches we have to sort out the drainage. We have to build up river embankments. But then often you build up river embankments and it will move the problem down somewhere else. It will just cost a fortune because we have more and more people we can’t cull the population. They want to live in houses and they have to live somewhere.
JH – but Andrew you raise a very interesting dilemma that every planner and every politician has. People want more houses, there are houses that are built on flood plains, You said every major city was built next to rivers because rivers meant trade. But what is the answer? Because what about those people – Father Paul told us in Rawreth – he warned the local authority. The parish council warned the local authority there was going to be more flooding caused and still they go ahead. Now what’s the answer?
AfH There isn’ t an answer. You’ve either got to have lots of homeless people or people who might be flooded once in every so often although the way the climate is changing there may be more of these incidents. The question is, over time you just have to build all these defences. Canvey Island is another –
JH – that’s always been
Afh – that’s under the flood plain! For want of a better word.
JH – Canvey Island’s a different matter altogether because you remember the terrible floods – I think it was ‘53? – where lots of people were killed and they built really sensible flood defences
Afh – Well, that’s what we have to do wherever, or else .. it’s a bit like the snow argument. Thse things don’t happen taht often, but you have to spend a fortune in planning for it when it does happen.
JH So Paul – you;ve haerd what Andrew has to say. It;s a terrible dilemma. How do you – how do you
square the circle?
PT Oh yeah, I’m not going to disagree with that fundamentally either. I’ve always drawn a very fine line between those who have been talking particularly about flooding and those who have been more generally resisting new housing because he’s right because there are those people who will just be NIMBYs and say ‘not in my back yard I want it to be built somewhere else’. I think there are questions about adaptation and defences and there are costs to those. They musty be fairly thought through and fairly aired. Other callers have talked about ditch draining….
JH – yep-
PT –Those have been neglected around here not least by the Environment Agency and that’s a running discussion as well. I suspect that if we really want to take these things on properly we do need to recognise there are costs..
JH Paul I’m sorry to cut you off there. Thank you so much for your call.