Urgent call for ‘extreme weather’ flood defences in Crawley

New cabinet member Cllr Geraint Thomas speaks out about Crawley's flooding problems. Pic Steve Robards  SR1617850 SUS-160621-104640001
New cabinet member Cllr Geraint Thomas speaks out about Crawley's flooding problems. Pic Steve Robards SR1617850 SUS-160621-104640001
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A councillor has called for urgent investment into Crawley’s flood defences as global warming increases the threat of ‘extreme weather’ events.

Cllr Geraint Thomas, Cabinet member in charge of land drainage, raised concerns over the Government’s ‘ad hoc’ response to flooding.

He said: “To reduce flood risk, we need an acknowledgement of the increased likelihood of flooding events caused by an increase in extreme weather events caused by global warming.

“We need a greater preparedness to make investments to reduce risk of flood events rather than an ad hoc response after they happen.”

His comments echoed an MPs’ report this month stating the Government was failing to do enough to protect communities from the risk of flooding.

Cllr Thomas (Lab, Northgate) said the risk of ‘enormous’ disruption at Gatwick was getting worse as Crawley became more developed.

Thousands of passengers had their holiday plans ruined after the airport’s electrical substation flooded on Christmas Eve 2013.

He explained water flowed northwards through the town towards Gatwick and said ministers, the Environment Agency and local authorities had a responsibility to prevent chaos downstream and for the town’s residents and businesses.

Cllr Thomas said the borough council spent £400,000 a year on flood defences. Areas worst hit included ‘several hotspots’ in Furnace Green, Maidenbower, Three Bridges and Stafford Bridge in Ifield but many of the issues had “their origins and some of their effects outside its boundaries”. Local athorities and stakeholders were in negotiations for a ‘more modest’ Ifield flood protection scheme than one planned in 2010, he added.

“Although the situation has improved with the investments we have made I would suggest that central government, via the Environment Agency as well as county councils should be prepared to make more long term investments, along with the borough council, to reduce the risk of further flooding events in Crawley, Gatwick and further downstream – as a matter of urgency.”