Response needed to flooding crisis

At last! The blame game appears to have fizzled out, giving way to practical suggestions.

I refer, of course, to the proposals to prevent – or at least minimise – potential future flooding of the Somerset Levels. Somerset County Council and others say that rivers should be dredged, roads should be raised, and a tidal barrier should be built on the River Parrett close to Bridgewater.

At this stage they are only “proposals”, but, given the devastation and distress caused by what the Meteorological Office confirms has been the wettest winter on record, they are assured of a proper hearing.

They will also, hopefully, jog people’s memories of the devastation caused to coastal resorts.

Television footage and newspaper pictures of inundated homes and farmland, distraught families and stranded livestock, are very alarming, but they are only part of the picture.

Tourism businesses in seaside towns like storm-battered Aberystwyth are suffering. Cliff falls here in Bournemouth and Dorset have changed the face of the coastline. Tidal surges in Dawlish have caused long-term disruption to rail services to much of the West Country.

Physical damage can be put right fairly quickly. Repairing reputational damage can take a lot longer. And given that many environmentalists are warning that extreme weather events are only likely to become more frequent, the time to act is now.

For flood victims still very much in need of immediate support, it’s good to see the very welcome work of Visit England, and their marketing campaign to promote destinations being “open for business as usual” to boost forward bookings as well as the business support services and funding, visit for more.

The National Coastal Tourism Academy believes there probably is – and certainly will be – an urgent need for a crisis management database based on first-hand experiences. Best practice needs to be highlighted, alongside honest appraisals of “what went wrong”.

Ahead of robust research, I would genuinely welcome constructive suggestions from tourism-related interests around the UK. What happened, how did you deal with it, what did you do well, and who helped?

Businesses and jobs are at stake, with potentially serious repercussions for local economies.

If we can begin to build our own defences (the figurative equivalent of stockpiling sandbags) then we will have a resource, which the NCTA will make freely available to all, that could potentially save livelihoods – and even lives.

Compared to the Somerset Levels, most of Britain’s coastal resorts have escaped the worst. Those that have been battered will recover, and quickly. The future, however, is a foreign country – and we would all do well to learn the language before we get there.

Any insights and input will be gratefully received. Thank you in advance.

By Samantha Richardson