Swollen River Till after Storm Babet. Photo: James T M Towill/CC
Swollen River Till after Storm Babet. Photo: James T M Towill/CC

Jon Dale, Mansfield Socialist Party

Storm Babet’s widespread floods devastated homes, local shops and businesses. An 83-year old Chesterfield woman tragically drowned in her living room, unable to climb upstairs.

Thérèse Coffey, Tory Environment Secretary, claimed rain coming from the east was the problem! When it comes to predicting rain from the west, she said, “We’ve got that pretty much down to a fine art.”

Local residents were scornful when she visited Retford in North Nottinghamshire last week. They experienced floods in 2007, 2019 and now again.

Four years ago, the district council put £200,000 aside to widen a culvert that can’t cope with heavy rain. But austerity cuts have slashed the Environment Agency’s funds by almost two thirds since 2010, so council funds weren’t matched and the work hasn’t been done.

Retford’s Tory MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, said in Parliament, “Can we also please ask councils to stop building on floodplains?” But his own government has encouraged this!

About 10% of new houses were built in areas at the highest risk of flooding in England in 2021. Half the planned houses in neighbouring North Lincolnshire were on a flood plain, where it’s more profitable for building companies and developers.

Despite this, Keir Starmer has attacked the “restrictive planning system” as the blockage to new building. What’s needed is democratic control of planning by local communities, ensuring drainage, soakaways, green space and other essential measures are installed. Big building companies should be nationalised to prioritise flood prevention over profit. So should the water companies responsible for sewage. Residents and small businesses affected should be compensated from their vast profits.

Bolsover Tory MP Mark Fletcher said, “We need to make sure that Derbyshire County Council, unlike in 2019 [when there was fatal flooding], is given the proper funding it needs to get things back to normal… quickly.” More hypocrisy after voting for every Tory cuts budget!

Derbyshire County Council has announced it’s short of £46 million, despite making £300 million ‘savings’ over the past 13 years, and £63 million more planned over the next five.

Ground is now water-saturated before winter starts, so there’s a strong possibility of more floods in coming months. What junior Tory minister, Rebecca Pow, complacently called “rare, extreme levels of rainfall” are becoming increasingly common as a result of climate change.

We need socialist planning to urgently stop environmental destruction and to make sure working-class people don’t pay the price for its effects.