Examination of Witnesses (Questions 757
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2008
We will move onto our next set of witnesses. We welcome now on
behalf of the Regional Flood Defence Committees Mr Tim Farr, who
is the Chairman of the Midlands Regional Flood Defence Committee;
in a similar role for the Thames Region we have Dr Peter Ryder;
and Mr Jeremy Walker occupies the same position but in Yorkshire,
so we have a very good geographic spread. I was going to ask you
as an opening question how you felt about not being featured in
Sir Michael's interim report and then he told us he was going
to meet you and take you into account so you can look to star
billing in terms of the final report. Perhaps I could just start
with a comment from the first paragraph of your written evidence
to us. It says: "Regional Flood Defence Committees advise
the Environment Agency on its plans and priorities for flood risk
management investment in the region, approve its business plan
and account to the Agency and to Defra for the stewardship of
flood risk management resources".
You have given a lot of very good advice, do you ever get frustrated
that some of it has quite clearly not actually happened, been
implemented or is ignored? Perhaps if some of the things you have
said in the past had happened we would not have had some of the
problems that we did last summer.
Mr Walker: There are frustrations
clearly but let me start at the beginning of the summer incident.
No advice that we could have given would have stopped it raining
quite so much in June and July. Would advice that we have given
on particular schemes have made a lot of difference to the impact
that amount of water had? I doubt it. Would we like to see investment
committed further into the future and more of it? Yes, we would.
Dr Ryder: In the light of what
happened this summer, which was a very unusual event in many ways,
there are undoubtedly lessons to be learned. We have all just
heard Sir Michael Pitt about how he has teased out as a result
of those experiences and we are part of the business of learning
those lessons as well as anybody else.
Nobody would ever accuse you of being lapdogs to the Environment
Agency or Defra; you are in the business of making recommendations
about how to improve flood defences. You have your feet on the
ground buried in the soggy earth and territory that you are defending
from the flood waters, there must have been things in perhaps
the last five years where you have made a recommendation which,
for all kinds of perfectly justifiable reasons, did not happen,
but when you look back if they had been done it might have at
least helped ameliorate some of the problems that we are now facing.
Or is it the case that everything you have said has been implemented
so that my argument falls flat on its face?
Dr Ryder: There is one example
certainlyin our evidence already to the Pitt Review we
have made reference to this in the Thames Regional submissionand
it is the use of weather radar. You have drawn attention to the
fact that there is no reference to Regional Flood Defence Committees
in Sir Michael Pitt's report; there is no reference to the use
of weather radar either.
In our evidence with the Meteorological Office we did discuss
all kinds of new technologies.
Dr Ryder: I used to be director
of operations in the Met Office before I became first a member
of the Thames Region Flood Defence Committee and then its chairman.
In fact I was responsible when I was in the Met Office for the
installation of the weather radar network in England, Wales, Scotland
and in Northern Ireland. I need to say that to you so that you
can judge where I am coming from in this. We invested jointly
between the water industry and the Met Office in the weather radar
network precisely to try to provide warnings and quantitative
information to help manage precisely the sorts of events that
happened this summer. It is a source of some disappointment to
me personallywhich I have expressed, of coursethat
those data were not used in that way.
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