Video: Lincolnshire coast 'well prepared' for another 1953 tidal surge
QUESTIONS have been asked about Government plans to improve flood defences – as a minister visited the area on the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods.
Richard Benyon, the under-secretary for natural environment, water and rural affairs, addressed a conference in Barton yesterday.
He talked about the 1953 tidal surge which breached the east coast's flood defences, killed 46,000 livestock, devastated 116,000 acres of farmland and cost 42 lives in Lincolnshire and 307 in Britain overall.
And reassurances were given that the emergency services would be "well-prepared" if it were to happen today.
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While making clear that we "cannot afford to be complacent" about flooding, Mr Benyon also talked at length about extensive flood warning and evacuation plans which have since been put in place.
He talked of the need to "continue to invest in value-for-money flood defences and sustainable solutions", and suggested that local authorities and communities could embark on joint funding initiatives.
Mr Benyon told the Telegraph: "Things are difficult with our economy, but there has been a huge interest in partnership funding schemes, allowing local communities to back forward plans for their own preparations."
North East Lincolnshire Council leader Chris Shaw said he was keen to work with the Environment Agency and Government to improve flood defences which is necessary to "bring the area forward".
However, he criticised the plan at a time when NELC face having to take an 8.8 per cent cut in central funding from Mr Benyon's Conservative-led coalition Government.
"I always welcome the chance to work with the Government but, with one breath, they announce drastic cuts to our budget and with the next, they tell us we can help to fund our own improvements," he said.
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers said the flooding issue highlighted the extortionate price of home insurance in his constituency – something he has questioned Mr Benyon about privately and in Parliament.
"Most of my constituency is on an Environment Agency flood plain, but their map defines areas on Hewitts Circus as risky as those on the seafront – it is a problem that needs addressing," he said.
"I'm bending ears about it here at this conference, but people are playing their cards close to their chest because of ongoing talks with the insurance industry."
The Government is currently in extensive negotiations with the Association of British Insurers over the provision of affordable protection for homes in high-risk areas, such as flood plains.
Mr Benyon, who has been involved in these talks, said: "We are working hard in some very intense negotiations, but we are not in a position to make a full disclosure while these talks are still ongoing."