It has sadly been a very difficult start to the year for many local people who have suffered due to the severe flooding over the past couple of weeks.
I understand the floods in Bradford on Avon following the Christmas Eve storms were the town’s worst in 25 years.
Many homes and businesses have suffered, such as local restaurant the Fat Fowl which had to cancel bookings and close its doors for what would have been its busiest period.
I very much hope that it is able to recover and reopen soon, and I’ll be keen to go back there myself when it does.
To a lesser degree, similar problems were experienced in parts of Chippenham, Semington and elsewhere. I’d like to pay tribute to the local volunteers, council workers, and Environment Agency staff who spent the days following Christmas clearing up the mess and, of course, to the members of our emergency services. We really should make them feel welcome, even when the events accompanying them most certainly are not.
With water levels high and much of the ground saturated, it’s important to remain vigilant over the coming days to try to limit the damage should there be further rain and, above all, stay safe. I have found the flood warnings and advice on the Environment Agency’s website, www.environment-agency.gov.uk, very useful.
We must also learn the lessons of the last fortnight and make sure we are better prepared for storms and heavy rain in the future. We should explore ways to improve flood defences, drainage and public information.
I have written to the Environment Agency asking them to meet local people to discuss measures to prevent a repeat of this damage.
The coalition government is increasing spending on flood defences to £370 million a year, and I will go into bat to ensure that our part of Wiltshire gets the slice of that investment we need.
Following negotiations with the insurance industry, the government is also introducing measures in the Water Bill to ensure that high-risk properties can still get affordable flood insurance in the future.
I am taking paternity leave for part of January, so will not be conducting constituency surgeries during this time.
However, we are holding weekly sessions in my office in Avonbridge House, Chippenham, on Tuesday, (12.30-2pm) and Monday, January 20 (3-4.30pm).