March 11 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The Prime Minister has been urged to provide more details of how flood-hit homeowners and businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk can get their hands on his £5,000 “repair and renew” grants announced today.
People suffering following the storms welcomed the announcement, but said they needed more details so they knew what help was coming their way.
David Cameron announced that the cash would be provided to help people install defences as they repair their homes after the floods in Prime Minister’s Questions today and Downing Street confirmed that the grants would apply to those hit by the storms in early December, but said the Department for Communities and Local Government would provide more information in the coming days.
Pauline Porter, chairman of Walcott Parish Council and Walcott community resilience co-ordinator, said the grants were “just what we need”.
“We can’t stop the sea from doing what it does but we wanted help to protect ourselves. We have been fighting and fighting for this and hoped it would happen, but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
“A lot of people have said that if this happened in another country we would send them a big fat cheque but when it happens on our own shores there’s no help. I don’t begrudge helping people in other countries but we need help here too.”
Mrs Porter said about 50 homes in Walcott and 38 in neighbouring Bacton had been left uninhabitable because of the December 5 storm surge. Homeowners were still at the stage where they were assessing damaging and drying out their properties and had not yet begun installing defences.
But she added: “It’s all we ever talk about in Walcott.” Suggestions have included covers for airbricks, reinforced walls, metal shutters on doors and windows for those living on the Coast Road, and other types of barriers to protect entrances.
She also said that the hearts of the Walcott community went out to flood victims in the south who had been told the waters might not abate till May.
“They are far worse off than us,” she said. “The sea comes in, but it goes away again - and we have to clear up after it. “Most of us can hope to be back in our homes by August/September but those poor people don’t even know when the water’s going to stop coming into their homes.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said one of the flood-hit community in Walcott had said it was something the government could do at one of his advice surgeries, and he had written to the environment secretary a few weeks ago to suggest it.
“Who knows the genesis of these things, but it was certainly an idea of a Walcott resident,” he added.
Andy Martin is the owner of Workwear Solutions in Lowestoft’s Bevan Street East and his business suffered £5,000 of damage and losses during the tidal surge.
His business has still not dried out and water is still seeping in the back of he premises.
He said the announcement was one the “few goods things to come out recently” and would use any money to defend the back of his property.
Lowestoft MP Peter Aldous also welcomed the plan, saying that there were measures such as flood guards and protection from sewage water which could make a real difference to homeowners in flood risk areas.
But he said that it should be done as a “team approach” with stautory authorities also having responsibilities.
Richard Hansell, owner of East Coast Cinema in Lowestoft which is re-opening on Friday after suffering an estimated £250,000 of damage, said: “To help prevent it from happening again would be amazing. Hopefully you can get something pretty substantial for that.”