Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Floods of 1953 Remembered

This week marked the 60th anniversary of the 1953 floods which wreaked havoc in this part of the of the country. Canvey Island was very badly hit. Southend and Shoebury were not immune either, although no lives were lost.

There have been official events to commentate the occasion but I have particularly enjoyed reading the numerous features in the Echo over the course of the week. With the devastation that was caused I believe that the floods of 1953 are one of those events that we should never be allowed to forget.

In the lead up to the anniversary, I knew it was inevitable that the issue of the proposed flood defences for Shoebury Common would be back in the spotlight. In some ways I am pleased that this happened, as the events in 1953 and the tragic loss of life should act as a timely reminder that improvements are required to our sea defences to protect livelihoods, lives and homes for today's and future generations.

Whilst I appreciate there are some who are opposed to the idea of an embankment at Shoebury Common, I do believe that all are united in welcoming the fact that money has been set aside for improved flood defences and that the issue of improved flood defence are high up on Southend Councils agenda.

It was interesting that whilst listening to the rest of the BBC Essex radio debate on the Shoebury Common flood defences that I was asked to participate in early on Friday morning, there has certainly been a shift in opinion by those opposed in that originally the basis of their opposition was that the experts and the Environment Agency have got it wrong and that Shoebury Common was not at risk of flooding, to an acknowledgement that there is a flood risk at Shoebury Common and
improvements to defences are required although disagreements remain at what those improvements should be.

To obtain funding from the Environment Agency for improvements to flood defences there needs to be a preferred scheme identified which can demonstrate value for money. I was somewhat puzzled by the readers letter from Shoeburyness Independent Party councillor Mike Assenheim in Thursday's Echo which seems to indicate that he is wobbling in his support. I know this wouldn't be the first time as it is still fresh in the memories of some of the four different positions that he held on the East Beach enhancements a few years back

I can only assume that Cllr Assenheim may still have some of the amber nectar in the blood stream from his recent visit down under, if he feels that supplying every home with one roll of black refuse sacks every six months is more important than allocating money for improved flood defences which will protect people's homes, lives and livelihoods.

It will be interesting as we go through the budget setting process to see if Cllr Assenheim proposes removing the capital funding for flood defences from the budget. Somehow I suspect not.

I did find it mildly amusing to be criticised for saying that residents are welcome to talk to me about the proposed flood defences at our Street Surgery on the 16 February especially when he continues to refuse holding a surgery so residents can meet him face to face and discuss issues of concern with him.

For those residents who attended the Shoebury Residents Association meeting last Spring will recall that I secured the promise from officers of a Public Meeting to be held at a venue in Shoebury as part of a wide ranging consultation on the matter. I will continue to hold officers to this promise and have been assured that a date for this meeting will be announced in the very near future.

I am happy to be criticised for securing the promise of a public meeting and can only assume that as
Cllr Assenheim remained quiet throughout the meeting was happy to proceed without the need of a public meeting.

To suggest that the embankment at Shoebury Common is also a done deal was also a foolish comment to make by Cllr Assenheim, especially as the funding for the scheme from the Environment Agency has not yet been finalised and would still require planning permission from the Development & Control Committee - a body on which Cllr Assenheim sits and would only be too well aware.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Cllr Assenheim in the Echo next week photographed next to the soil stored on Gunners Park for the proposed embankment voicing his objections. If he does, it is well worth remembering that he offered no objections to this when planning permission was granted by the Development & Control Committee.

Still, I suppose it makes a change from Cllr Chalk jumping on the bandwagon depending on which way the wind is blowing along Shoebury High Street.

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