Memorandum submitted by Richard Benyon
MP (FL MP 13)
Thank you for your letter of the 24 July. I
am delighted that the Committee will be looking into this important
issue when the House returns. There are a multitude of unanswered
questions, with which I am wrestling, but I do believe there are
two areas that need looking at. I concede that they may take your
remit away from the precise area of interest with which the Committee
The first is, the impact of planning decisions
on flood risk. Much has been said about building in flood plains,
but I am principally concerned with the impact of in-fill developments.
I can find no evidence of any survey that attempted to calculate
the loss of "green" areas in our towns and villages.
There has been much debate in Parliament about the definition
of "brownfield land", which includes gardens. It is
this policy that has seen a great number of in-fill developments
in and around towns in West Berkshire. When you add to this the
propensity for tarmac drives, patios and decking, the resultant
loss of ground to soak up storm water is an important factor.
The second area of concern is the way in which
the Environment Agency manages our river systems. In the floods
on Friday, 20 July, the villages of Eastbury and Great Shefford
on the River Lambourn and the village of Bucklebury on the River
Pang, flooded because of weed congestion in small chalkstream
downland rivers. The inhabitants of these villages and others
that have suffered similar experiences in the past, ask why these
river systems are not kept clear of week to allow flash flood
water to follow the river bed and avoid the flooding of so many
houses. The Environment Agency points out that, had these rivers
been cleared in the way that they were in the past, a severe head
of water would have been created, causing much greater flooding
lower down. This is of little comfort to the communities I mentioned
above. If it is an accepted policy by the Environment Agency to
slow water in this way, surely it must be necessary to create
flood release schemes such as bunding or storm drainage channels,
which allow water to escape when these flash storms occur, particularly
in summer months. I am more than happy to provide more information
on this if it would be helpful.
I look forward to seeing the Committee's report.
Richard Benyon MP