Fears over lack of enforcement as Norfolk flooding anniversary nears

Heavy rain overnight caused many of the roads around Long Stratton to be flooded Picture: ELLA WILK

Flooding in Long Stratton. - Credit: ELLA WILKINSON

A law change has been demanded to give councils "teeth" to take action to prevent a repeat of the flooding which engulfed homes in Norfolk last Christmas.

Heavy rain and flash flooding last December left many parts of Norfolk underwater, forcing people from their homes.

A new taskforce - the Norfolk Flood Alliance - was set up to strengthen Norfolk's resilience to flooding, chaired by the General The Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army.

But at a meeting of the county council's scrutiny committee on Wednesday, November 24, council officers said a major barrier to tackling the problem was their limited powers to force riparian owners - landowners who have watercourses within or next to their properties - to do maintenance work.

Mark Ogden, the council's flood and water manager, said enforcement powers were "woolly", while there was a disparity between what the government believes it costs to protect properties and the reality.

Alison Thomas

Alison Thomas, Conservative county councillor for Long Stratton. - Credit: Archant

The home of Alison Thomas, Conservative councillor for Long Stratton, was affected by the floods last year.

She said the issue of landowners not taking responsibility had not gone away - and councils needed to have the power to force action.

She said: "We need to go back to the government. We are up against legal constraints applied by the current legislation."

She added: "I am at the point where I am going to put personal pressure on landowners to take action or I will start saying out loud who they are."

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Barry Duffin, county councillor for West Depwade, said it was getting harder to explain to his residents why the council could not do more to help them.

He said: "With Christmas coming and that dreaded date when it happened last year, those people who got flooded genuinely are absolutely frightened it will happen again this year.

"Hopefully it won't happen, but we really must get some teeth relatively soon, because people are getting really fed up with us not doing anything about it."

Andy Grant, cabinet member for environment and waste, said the Flood Alliance was making good progress, and was making representations to get the law changed.

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