Storm Dennis: Criticism of councillors and town council as it discussed the flood on Monday

Storm Dennis: Criticism of councillors and town council as it discussed the flood on Monday

Most members of Ludlow Town Council attended the extraordinary meeting of Ludlow Town Council on Monday evening. Viv Parry was very critical of other councillors for not turning out to help on Sunday 16 February. Glen Ginger took a different view and said only trained people should help in an emergency. But councillors overall though the town council could do more, including completing its emergency plan, work on which seems to have stalled.

There was agreement that there could be improvements to flood defences on Temeside. I told the meeting we need to do work on the Lower Corve also.

These are my notes from a recording, not a transcript of the meeting.

Councillor Viv Parry said she rang Shropshire Council for sandbags. No answer. She rang the town clerk at 8am. No answer. She got through to Shropshire Council at 9am when the response was that they were rushed and couldn’t do anything. She said the road needed closing because the wash from passing vehicles made flooding in houses worse. I didn’t see anyone from this council who came to help me on Sunday, not a soul. I was helping people for five hours. It’s all very nice being on paper. But I’m sorry, if we don’t have something where people come out and organises people to come out and says “let’s get this furniture moved or let’s help these people” it’s not going to work. It’s alright people being sat there in the warm of the Methodist Church but I wasn’t. [This was a reference to the paper under discussion.]

Councillor Richard Huffer, speaking as a unitary councillor said he was quite surprised to see to many wrapped bales in the floodwaters of the Teme. Farmers have a duty of care. Should a number of bales come down and lodge under a bridge, there is real potential to create a lot of damage. It could be a real disaster in the making.

Mayor Tim Gill said he saw eight bales go down the Teme in a very short time.

Councillor Graham Perks told Viv Parry he would have loved to have come to help but he was stuck in a flood.

Viv resumed saying that people on most Temeside did not have flood barriers. We need something doing with the wall because the water comes over. We need it building up. It’s Shropshire Council that should be paying for it.

Tim Gill said he agreed. If the wall has been two foot higher it wouldn’t have been bridged at a quarter past two.

Viv complained that cars were driving through the floods “at top speed”. Something has got to be done to stop that. All the sightseers that came down to take pictures of the water. They did walk down they drove.

Tim Gill said as a council we have to look at this. It’s a bit early to look at it.

Graham Perks asked what structure a review would take.

Councillor Eric Garner said it seems like Shropshire Council had changed its tune since the flooding. Weeks ago, they weren’t prepared to do anything. But there has been a change of tune. I would like to see exactly what they are prepared to do in terms of preventative measures and also what they are prepared to do in a future emergency. We need to address our own actions including what support we can offer and who can offer it.

Councillor Adrian Cobley said that in 2007, we were told it was going to be a one in a hundred year event. Twelve and a half years later we are there again. It is going to be the new normal.

Councillor Mark Clarke said the response to flooding had to be multiagency. Ludlow Town Council in my view, seemed to fall when we should have been standing up and leading. A knee jerk reaction is the wrong thing to do. We need to think about a bit more than sandbags.

Councillor Rod Naysmith said there needed to be something in place to coordinate a town council response.

Viv Parry returned to the debate. People started out by saying I’ve got to save my property. I said what about that 100 year-old woman across the road. People wanted to help. They worked so hard. It’s not good enough for us a town council to say I’m all right jack, I’m going to stop in bed and bugger the rest of them. I’ve been asking for six months, where is the [emergency] plan? It all of a sudden disappeared. Nothing was done. I don’t think it was councillor Garner’s fault. It was because she wasn’t given any money to do anything with. If we had put some money on one side, maybe we could have got a box of stuff to help people do things up. But we didn’t do it. And I am sorry we are to blame for some things.

Tim Gill said if you tried to get Shropshire Council’s contact webpage on that day it was down.

Councillor Glenn Ginger said we are asking for a review. The review should be that Ludlow is so far away from Shrewsbury, we should probably put most of our efforts into a robust emergency strategy based around trained people. It is admirable that members of the public and members of the council turn out and take on themselves tasks. After speaking about previous floods, he said as a council we are not dealing with recent climate change. It’s an age old problem. We need an absolutely robust strategy with qualified people behind it that can turn the situation around in hours not days.

Councillor Di Lyle said we have two areas that flood. We need an absolutely robust emergency strategy that looks at both of the rivers. I agree that it is an age old problem but it will be exacerbated by climate change. We cannot change climate change but what we can do is prepare.

Councillor Sean O’Neill said we must be seen as doing something positive otherwise what if the point of us being involved [in the council] at all.

Gina Wilding the town clerk was invited to respond. She said we have heard lots of ideas, lots of suggestions. We need to look at actions and have further conversations.

Councillor Perks proposed that the council would conduct and internal review and at the same time liaise more closely with Shropshire Council. Seconded Tim Gill. The motion was passed with one abstention.

Before councillors spoke, I told them that lessons needed to be learnt. Already Shropshire Council has agreed to deliver sandbags before a flood event. We also know that sandbags are sometimes no more than a placebo and don’t stop water coming into homes. We need to look at minor engineering works. Particularly at the Corve on Burway Bridge where we have identified that the culverts are becoming blocked. If you stand on Burway Bridge and look to the west there is a [huge] boulder that was washed down from the culvert on Sunday morning. That shows how much force there was in the water.

Raising the wall down Temeside. We discussed that on Tuesday when we met the council leader and chief executive.

To help resist, slow down, the overall flooding, we need to work upstream. We have to slow the flow. We need to plant trees. We need to do swales. We need to do leaky dams. But this won’t stop a major flood. This was an explosive cyclogenesis. We had a month’s rain in 48 hours, less in Ludlow, and it is inevitable that nothing will cope with that.

There is relief funding. Everybody affected has to register with Shropshire Council on 0345 678 9006.

I’ve asked for flooding to be called into scrutiny, Place Overview. That has provisionally been agreed. We’ll not just look at the flood event. We’ll look at how we can reduce flooding in the longer term. If we plant trees upstream, we store carbon dioxide. We reduce the flow. And increase biodiversity. It’s a win, win, win situation.

4 thoughts on “Storm Dennis: Criticism of councillors and town council as it discussed the flood on Monday

  1. Do neighbours have to be trained before lending a hand then? . What happened to community spirit and looking out for other people?

  2. I have been abroad whilst this double storm catastrophe was happening to the town. Has there been any ongoing coordinated local fundraising to support the needs of those effected, and if necesssry offer temporary accommodation to those whose homes have become uninhabitable?
    I’d appreciate information on this. Although a little late in the day this sort of thing has long term problems that need addressing long term.

  3. My sympathies go out to all people affected by the floods, it is a horrible experience.
    I just feel Ludlow town councils response is full of empty words, if it takes as long as it did to arrange a survey of the town walls ( seven years) then don’t expect any action to be taken quickly, or possibly no action at all.
    P.S. Well done to Viv Parry for actually doing something to help.

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