By Sheryll Murray Conservative MP for South East Cornwall on the effects on infrastructure and spending caused by the frequent flooding events.
The tragic incident that took place in Looe, where we saw a fatal landslip, reinforces just how vulnerable so many areas across the region are in what appears to be ever worsening weather.
Finding a resolution to the situation is very difficult in the current economic climate where finances are under such pressure. I am delighted that Cornwall and Devon are to receive some financial help.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon recently announced that 13 communities across the country will benefit from a £5 million fund to come up with innovative projects that will better protect homes and businesses from the risk of flooding.
Whilst we are all aware of the devastating effect flooding has on someone's home, we often forget about the future effects that can continue for years. Obtaining affordable and adequate home insurance is one such area.
Last week in Parliament we had a debate about flood insurance and many MPs raised concerns on behalf of their constituents.
It is now just three months before the expiry of the statement of principles agreed by the previous Government with the Association of British Insurers (ABI). The statement governs the provision of insurance to properties that are at "significant risk" of flooding – that is, properties that have a one in 75 or greater chance of being flooded in any given year. With the deadline for agreement looming, ministers and the ABI remain deadlocked in negotiations.
My constituency has been one of the places worst hit by flooding over the past couple of years. It is widely acknowledged that places such as Looe, Polperro and my own village of Millbrook were some of the worst affected in Britain by flooding in November and December 2012. The heavy rainfall resulted in a lot of damage to highways, infrastructure and homes across my constituency. Cornwall Council has estimated the cost of repairing the damage across Cornwall to be about £2.5 million.
Prior to the flooding of her home, one of my constituents was paying between £200 to £300 for her flood insurance last year. Then her home was flooded and in January she was informed that it would cost £530 to renew her policy. The huge increase in her costs caused her to look elsewhere, but the majority of companies refuse to take her on at the moment. I sincerely hope that negotiations between the ABI and Government will find a satisfactory solution before the statement of principles expires in June.
There has also been considerable pressure on local councils due to flooding. They are responsible for clearing up in the aftermath of a flood. Fire and rescue services along with the other blue light services are often at the sharp end of a flood occurrence.
Weeks after a flooding incident, a local council may continue to become involved in repairing damage to highways or indeed, dealing with a landslip as has occurred in Looe. Local council taxpayers are often affected by potholes in the roads. Local residents in Looe are quite understandably very concerned about the safety of their own properties, particularly as they raised the matter with the local council in January and were reassured in an email from the council stating: "The site has been inspected on a number of occasions and all areas giving rise to concern are included within the current works programme."
I believe the only way to reassure the residents is to publish the reports and surveys on which this statement is based. Indeed, I believe it is essential that we have transparency from all local councils and any report that does not contain commercial in-confidence information should be in the public domain.