Community Flood Action Group could help Jesmond

Photo by Thomas Good

Photo by Thomas Good

The National Flood Forum has suggested areas like Jesmond could benefit from a Community Flood Action Group.

The idea involves a group of local volunteers with responsibility to  put in place anti-flood measures.

One spokesperson would represent the group and consult with agencies such as Environment Agency and the city council on residents’ behalf.

The National Flood Forum made the suggestion at an event held last week at the Civic Centre for residents to share their experiences and stories from the summer floods.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) offers funding for groups who have support of councillors and organisations such as National Flood Forum.

One Community Flood Action Group benefiting from funding is in Morpeth, Northumberland, where residents have a rota outlining who clears gullies and blocked drains.

Amanda Davies, Operations Coordinator for the National Flood Forum, said: “These groups are not a full protection against flooding but they can give residents more time which is crucial in an emergency situation.”

Helen Hinds, Head of Resilience Planning for Newcastle City Council, said the Civic Centre event aimed to provide people with “practical information and advice” in relation to floods.

She added: “The second benefit is for us to listen to people and speak to them directly. We need to understand how council decisions affect residents.”

The council is  now forming plans on how to deal with future floods at the request of local councillors, including debates on affordable insurance.

However, the end in 2013 of the “Statement of Principles” – an agreement forcing insurers to offer flood cover – threatens an unfettered free market that could leave 200,000 homes unable to get flood insurance. Currently, the statement offers flood insurance protection to homes and businesses to both low and high flood risk properties.

The National Flood Forum has set up an online petition to push the government “to take immediate action that will ensure flood victims and flood hit communities can obtain affordable flood insurance after 2013, in the interests of individuals, communities and the national economy.”

Davies told Jesmond Local: “We have a petition to end this “Gentleman’s agreement” and be able to provide flood victims with affordable insurance quotes. It is important otherwise homes will lose value and blight local economies.”

The agreement as it stands is not protected by UK law; the petition aims to give legal protection to citizens’ insurance claims.

Davies also insisted it would benefit residents by giving agencies more time to work rather than answer calls.

With the council budget facing cuts, it is thought measures proposed as a result of the event may prove too costly to implement.

Hinds explained: “Firstly, the council is working on a package of evidence to give to local councillors who requested this information. It will outline recommendations to be given to the elected members and then they can investigate the matter further.”

The National Flood Forum emphasised the importance of preparation and planning for floods. They advised having an evacuation plan ready for situations like those seen over the summer.

They also suggested important documents, medication and baby items be stored in a safe place as they will be needed should residents be evacuated.

For more information on the petition and flood advice contact 01299403055 or visit the National Flood Forum website.

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