Headlines: February 14th, 2008

The man leading the inquiry into last summer’s floods has told council leaders that information on flood risk needs to be more localised. Sir Michael Pitt said the country had not been prepared for the scale of the disaster, which he believed ranked alongside almost anything that had happened during peacetime.

Sir Michael, who in December produced an interim report from his review of the lessons to be learned from the floods, was speaking at a meeting organised by the Local Government Association. He said preparations for dealing with surface water flooding and warnings about its risks were not in place in the same way as they were for river or coastal flooding. He called today for more money to be invested in weather forecasting and improving understanding of how flooding happened.

Experts, he said, were of the view that it was difficult to predict weather and what would happen to water when it hit the surface but he believed it was necessary to rise to the challenge. “We need to invest more in weather forecasting, improving the resolution of weather forecasting so we can identify not just the county but the town or locality where the flooding is going to take place,” he said and added, “When flooding takes place, we need to have a much clearer understanding of which streets are likely to be flooded and therefore what action can be taken.”

Sir Michael praised local authorities for the work they had done but he said it was vital people were given clear information, especially as the changing climate meant similar flooding was likely.

The meeting also heard from representatives of some of the areas worst-hit by the flooding, including Tewkesbury and Sheffield . Chris Shaw, the strategic director of operations for Tewkesbury Borough Council, said seven months after the flood there were still 437 displaced households, with 95 families living in caravans. He praised the spirit of the community in the aftermath of the floods but said that paranoia and a blame culture had grown up. “There is a huge frustration building and antipathy to development,“ he said.