Letter to Cockermouth Post August 2011
Don’t panic, it’s not happening yet, but with our Town’s past history without defences it certainly will and what will make it worse next time is that traders will say “enough is enough” and throw in the towel, that will lead to shops being unable to be sold or let, once a few shops get boarded up many will follow, and before you know where you are the town will appear run down, once that happens your properties will devalue, not just by a few pounds but by tens of thousand of pounds.
Yes the Cockermouth Flood Action Group has heard all the stories, “but I live on a hill and will never flood” – very true, many of you do, but it’s not necessarily your property we are looking at, it’s the entire infrastructure, the shops, the offices, transport, parking and then all the traffic delays. Some residents are uncertain about the “precept tax” of £6.46 per person per annum but that’s less than a gallon of diesel or 2 pints of beer and I can state that anyone driving during the bridge closure used up more than one gallon of fuel just ticking over.
Unfortunately the Government, of which the Environment Agency is a part, has a policy of “Payment for Outcomes”, in simple terms that means out of the 200 flood defence schemes around the Country awaiting funding, only a small handful will progress further, the principle being that if “locals can show willing and dedication – as we have already done in the construction of the defence around the Gote area of Cockermouth – then we have a chance of success. The Environment Agency have indicated to us that the Towns contribution is in the region of £300,000, of which £100,000 has already been allocated from other sources, the £200,000 balance WILL have to come from the Community
The funding of the Gote defences was in some respects much easier as donations from around the World poured in, but those days have all gone “the barrel is empty” and we have to make urgent commercial decisions, the only certainty being a Council Tax additional precept, unfortunately, coffee mornings, charity shops and collection boxes would not guarantee an income by Christmas this year to satisfy the Environment Agency.
So, the Town Council has in principle approved a precept scheme, providing the residents are in favour, a survey form will be hand delivered by the councillors to the residents of Cockermouth, probably in early September and will be collected soon after, please take one minute of your life to tick the appropriate box, but just remember this it’s a DO or DIE situation if the survey showed less that 50% are prepared to back the scheme, the Environment Agency will walk away and spend their cash elsewhere and you will never ever see a defence around the Town, that’s not a threat that’s a fact, ask the residents of Appleby they turned down a scheme years ago and now bitterly regret that decision.
For more information on the proposed works visit our newly updated website www.cockermouthfloodactiongroup.org.uk
The Environment agency has recently awarded their Excellence Awards for the emergancy works following the 2009 flood. The Cockermouth Flood Action Group was included in the award as a partner. The photo shows Mike Apperley (left) receiving the award along with Tony Callaghan representing the contactor and Paul from the Environment Agency.
John Bracegirdle Cockermouth Flood Action Group