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Weather report: ‘ok, but can do better’

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 22, 2013

21/01/13 Weather - Winshill, Burton Snow scenes around Burton and Winshill.Traffic getting grid locked due to the snow and road works

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“THERE’S no doubt about it, Burton has borne the brunt of the adverse weather in the last few weeks,” says Burton MP Andrew Griffiths with a sigh.

Even the Conservative’s most ardent critics would find it hard to disagree with his pithy meteorological analysis.

After all, it was only a few weeks ago when all of us, not just those of a centre-right bent, were soaked to the skin following torrential rains that triggered flooding of almost Biblical proportions.

While Swadlincote appeared to escape the worst, Burton endured a ‘carmaggedon’ when the River Dove burst its banks and prompted the closure of one of the area’s most important routes, the A38.

Meanwhile, villages in the Trent valley, such as Willington, struggled to cope as the tide rose – and then refused to subside.

As if the rains were not challenging enough, Burton and South Derbyshire has now been carpeted by the heaviest snowfall for some time.

There were a few flakes at the beginning of last week, but nothing like the thick blanket that descended during the weekend.

Homeowners and drivers, only recently recovered from last year’s deluge, have once again been forced to cope with the worst the British weather can throw at them.

But how has this area withstood the rain and snow?

Have those in charge of keeping things moving learned the lessons of the past or they still poorly prepared for whatever falls from the skies?

Mr Griffiths, for one, appears reasonably satisfied.

“On the whole I think both Staffordshire County Council and the emergency services have coped pretty well,” he says.

However, there’s a ‘but’.

“We do, I think, need to look at the weather pattern and what appears to be more regular freak weather conditions to see if there are lessons we can learn about provision of services.

“Snow causes disruption and inconvenience for the few days it’s on the ground.

“However, flooding causes devastation to the households and businesses that are affected and can take months, if not years, to recover from.

“So preparedness for flooding has to be a priority going forward.”

As experts warn our weather will be characterised by increasing extremes, this area’s experience does appear to support their grim forecast.

Newhall Weather Station, which only started taking the temperature of our micro-climate in 1976, recently revealed that 2012 was the wettest year since.

Unbelievably, a spokesman said this unprecedented sogginess had followed the driest year on record.

Whatever the reason, and climate change – if you will pardon the pun – appears to be the hot favourite, our weather is not the same as it once was and we have to face the consequences.

Simon Spencer, cabinet member for highways and transport on Derbyshire County Council, indicates the authority is keen to ensure it is – to use Mr Griffiths’ word – ‘prepared’.

“We’ve had some severe weather conditions over the last two months, particularly in South Derbyshire,” he says.

“Undoubtedly, the amount of rain and the weather conditions have taken their toll on the roads and outlying adjacent fields.

“We are carrying out a review of the role the council plays, making sure everybody understands the role of the council is in flooding issues, and the district councils and the Environment Agency.

“There will be a paper coming to cabinet in future that highlights how effectively the flow of information is and how effective each authority is at playing their role.”

Like Burton’s MP, Councillor Spencer believes the threat comes not so much from snow, but from flooding.

“South Derbyshire faces challenges that other areas of the county don’t face as regards flooding,” he says.

“As a consequence, we want to make sure everybody is working together to tackle (problems) as they arise and knows who is doing what and when.”

Flooding certainly appears to be the key threat facing Burton.

“The issue in Burton is from the Trent because we have so many properties which would be at risk if the defences weren’t there,” says Peter Coxhill, a former Labour councillor and flood defence team leader at the Environment Agency.

“The standard of protection in Burton is relatively good.

“We spent a lot of money in about 2005 to raise the levels in some parts of the defences.

“We need to keep maintaining it but the standard in Burton is pretty good.

“A lot of the problems you get these days are from surface water.”

Fred Ash, whose Barton home was flooded by almost an inch of sewerage water on November 25, laughs when asked if the area is ‘prepared’.

“What we are dreading now is what’s going to happen now when we have a quick thaw,” says the 77-year-old former farmworker.

“Are we going to get flooded again and is Severn Trent Water prepared for it?

“That’s the big question in our minds.”

As the big freeze continues, its impact appears to minor when compared to the misery inflicted by flooding.

Our preparedness for the impact of our increasingly freakish weather conditions may have improved markedly in the past few years, but it is for people like Mr Ash that it must improve further.

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  • Burton Mail  |  January 22 2013, 9:11AM

    The reason Burton has survived fairly well from flooding recently is fairly straight forward There are fields around the area to soak up a lot of the water. Where will it all go when these fields are built on with houses that, at the moment no one can afford to buy.