AS people across the Midhurst and Petworth area battle the devastation of flooding, a leading engineer has called for tougher government measures to prevent a repeat of their nightmare
Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said extreme weather was likely to occur more frequently in the future which would ‘significantly threaten’ the country’s existing infrastructure.
Tough government regulation should be put in place to ensure it was brought up to standards which could cope, he warned.
“Government cannot solely rely on companies and organisations voluntarily spending money and resources on adapting their infrastructure to be more resilient without regulatory intervention,” said Dr Fox.
His call has been backed by Iping villagers who were flooded out of their homes when the River Rother burst its banks over Christmas.
Seven households had to be rescued by the fire service in boats when six feet of water cascaded into their houses.
It was the worst flooding villagers could remember.
Jacquie Broadway told the Observer: “It’s not good enough to say if you buy a house on a flood plain, it’s up to you.
“Thousands of people have been flooded recently. I believe the Environment Agency would like to do more to help us, but they are restricted by government.”
Dr Fox said the current flooding across the country illustrated the urgent need for ‘substantially’ more work to be done to increase the country’s resilience
“The sooner we adapt the engineered systems that provide our energy, water, drainage, transport and communications, as well as our villages, towns and cities, the better.
“Not only will this potentially help save lives and livelihoods, as well as reduce the widespread failures and disruption we’ve seen recently, but could also prove cheaper in the long-term.
Where improvement were not or viable, Dr Fox said: “The infrastructure should be replaced and if necessary relocated.”
But he warned that there would be heavy costs involved and “it is unlikely that society will be prepared to bear the cost of a fully resilient country.”
There should, he said be: “an honest dialogue with the public that future-proofing our country against heavy rainfall, increased storminess, rising sea-levels and higher temperatures, while cheaper in the long-term, comes with substantial associated up-front costs.”
Where members of the public were not prepared to pay, warned Dr Fox they may have to put up with poor services and “accept periods of reduced service from infrastructure during times of extreme weather or sea-level related disruption. We need to be realistic.”