With Cornwall already experiencing the first of this year’s winter storms, local communities are being encouraged to develop plans to ensure they are prepared for emergency situations such as floods, snow or major fires.
Cornwall experienced twelve major storms between December 2013 and March 2014, causing huge damage to coastal infrastructure in 245 locations, including the closure of the main rail line into Cornwall at Dawlish. All of Cornwall was affected in some way, including flooding of property and land at Wadebridge, Perranporth, Looe, St Ives, Bude, Portreath, Penzance, Fowey, Mevagissey and Penryn and damage to sea defences, beaches, piers, breakwaters, harbours and cliffs. A number of people were forced to temporarily leave their properties, and many businesses, including fishing and tourism related businesses, suffered considerable financial losses.
With the likelihood of more severe weather during the coming months the Government is supporting Cornwall Council to work with statutory agency partners to help local communities improve their resilience by drawing up Community Emergency Plans. The aim of the plans is to make the most of the knowledge and community spirit within a small geographical area to help reduce the risk of harm to people and property by agreeing what action individuals and groups can take before, during, and after an emergency incident and speed up the recovery process.
A number of local communities in Cornwall are already developing Community Emergency Plans and now consideration is being given to use some of the “community fund” element of the Severe Weather Recovery Scheme received from Government to provide small grants to individual communities to encourage other areas to follow their example. it is proposed that the grant could come in two parts, the first to support the work to develop the scheme and the second once the Plan is adopted be used to help buy equipment and resources. Under the proposal being considered any communities which have already finalised their Community Emergency Plans would also be eligible for a grant to help them deliver their plans.
“Community Resilience is about communities planning ahead and taking steps to become better prepared for emergencies” said Edwina Hannaford, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Heritage and Planning. “Local communities have a key role to play, both during the event and in the recovery phase. Developing Community Emergency Plans not only provides communities with a comprehensive plan so they can deal better in the early stages with any future emergency, but also helps to further enhance the sense of community and neighbourliness throughout the local area”.
Information about community resilience in Cornwall is available from the Cornwall Community Resilience Network website. The website has been developed in partnership with the Cornwall Community Flood Forum, and provides information about how to develop and publicise community emergency plans. A toolkit is also available to guide communities through the process of establishing groups and writing plans.
“The Cornwall Community Flood Forum is a community-led initiative committed to supporting communities, households and businesses at risk of flooding” said Roy Taylor, Chairman of the Cornwall Community Flood Forum and Cornwall Council Member for St Blazey.
“We are an association of Town and Parish Councils, community groups, businesses and individuals with an active involvement in flood risk management. The Forum has an interest in all flood related activities within Cornwall. We are guided in particular by the following aims: Supporting communities in becoming better prepared, Raising flood awareness within Cornwall and Promoting a partnership approach to flood risk management and community engagement.”
Funding is still available for households and businesses which were affected by last winter’s floods. Owners of homes and businesses flooded internally between 1 December 2013 and 31 March 2014 have until 30 November to apply for grants of up to £5,000 from the Government’s Repair and Renew Fund to purchase improvements and measures to help protect their property from future flooding.
“While we know that around 300 homes and businesses were affected by the floods, we have only received 75 applications for support so far” said Rob Andrew, Assistant Head of Localism and Devolution. “People have until the end of November to submit an application and I would encourage anyone whose property has been affected to check out if they are eligible to apply for funding“.
With the South West one of the areas worst affected by the storms last year, the Council is joining with partners, including neighbouring local authorities, to lobby the Government to provide additional funding for flood defence works.
Council officers have drawn up a comprehensive report which sets out the social, environmental and economic impact of last winter’s storms which will be considered by members of the Council’s Environment Portfolio Advisory Committee at its meeting on 14 November. The report details the flooding and coastal damage caused by the severe weather between December 2013 and March 2014, with information about the impact on roads, rail, air and maritime facilities, heritage assets, flood protection and water and sewage supplies, power and communications infrastructure and public buildings and property.
It also considers the social impact of the floods on individuals and communities, the impact on key industries such as tourism, retail, manufacturing and fishing and the impact on beaches and the coastline, wildlife and the natural landscape.
“This report highlights the scale of the impact of the storms on Cornwall” said Edwina Hannaford. “Our neighbours in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are also drawing up similar reports on the impact in their areas and , once each is complete, we will be using them to produce a peninsula report which we will be presenting to the Government as part of our case for more funding “.
Advice and guidance on dealing with emergency situations such as flooding is available from the Environment Agency website and from the Council’s website. Members of the public can also visit the website developed by the Cornwall Community Flood Forum to provide information about what to do in a flood.
Story posted 07 November 2014