Boris Johnson, the former MP for Henley on Thames, was in his former constituency’s new, near namesake, Kenley-on-Thames, this morning, the London Mayor becoming the latest high-profile politician to visit the scene of flooding in the south of Croydon.
Just as with Eric Pickles, the environment secretary, who waded in with his wellies along the Godstone Road on Monday, Johnson made suitably calming noises about helping the residents and businesses that have been affected by the flooding – hardly surprising since this is all going on in the ward represented at Croydon Town Hall by fellow Tory Steve O’Connell, the country’s most overpaid councillor and the London Assembly Member for Sutton and Croydon.
Boris’s “morale-boosting visit” stopped short of his using Young Mr Grace’s line of “You’re all doing very well”, but there was more than a touch of patronising patrician about his waddle-about.
There was much of a sense that Pickles and Johnson’s visits were more about shoring up Tory defences for the forthcoming local elections than they had anything to do with improving flood defences. With parts of Somerset having been under water for more than a month, the Government and senior figures within the Tory Party appear to be far more animated in the past few days, since parts of the Conservative heartland of the Thames Valley have been affected.
Insurance industry sources are putting estimates of the cost of the clear-up at £1 billion, while the Met Office is describing the winter of 2013-2014 as the wettest in 250 years.
“This is something that has been brewing for a while now, so we’ve been preparing,” Johnson said on his visit to Kenley. “The issue is going to be the same as everywhere else in the country. Clearly London has been much less severely affected.”
The Mayor said councils and emergency services had around 10,000 sandbags ready to distribute and a close eye was being kept on whether ground water was at risk of contamination from sewage.
Jenny Jones, the Green Party’s London Assembly member, called on the Mayor to turn his words into actions: “It is imperative his sound bytes translate into flood reduction measures on a scale that matches the unprecedented weather challenges that London is facing.”
The Environment Agency has warned that London must improve its flood protection measures or risk being swamped.
Jones wants to see widespread action to reverse some of the environmental damage which local councils have allowed and which can lead to flooding.
She has demanded:
a) A costed programme of river restoration across all London’s rivers, to reduce local and downstream flooding
b) To take a leading role in ensuring that the resources and budgets required to protect 24,000 homes in the capital that are at risk of river flooding are in place. To date, there are plans to protect 10,000 of these properties, subject to £100million funding being secured over 10 years
c) Targeted action at households at risk from surface water flooding with advice and incentives to remove hard paving and impermeable surfaces that contribute to surface water run-off, as part of a wider programme to reverse the trend that has seen two-thirds of front gardens paved over.
d) To copy New York’s scale of tree planting of 100,000 a year, towards the 2 million extra trees we need to cope with climate change and to slow the impact of heavy rainfall
Croydon Council has not issued any significant status updates on the flood situation since Sunday. This may, at least, suggest that the flooding has not worsened or spread.
The Godstone Road remains closed, and water is still being pumped up the road into the “Purley Pond”, the pedestrian underpass at Purley Cross, to divert it from the local water treatment plant. Pupils at Roke Primary look as if they will get a two-week half-term holiday, with the school closed all this week.
- To report rising groundwater levels or flooding, residents are asked to call the Environment Agency Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60. You can also sign up to the free groundwater Flood Alert/Warning service by calling Floodline on 0845 988 1188.
- Going Underground: Purley underpass used as flood overflow
- Kenley-on-Thames in pictures: how the floods hit Purley
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Coming to Croydon
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 13
- Croydon Arts Network meeting, Feb 15
- Chinese New Year children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 18
- This War! St Gertrude’s Theatre group, Feb 19-22
- Welsh myths children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Warm and Well event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Fairtrade Film night, Antenna Cafe, Haynes Lane, Feb 27
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
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