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« Money...mouth | Main | Follow the money »
Monday
Feb102014

+++Alas Smith+++

In his interview with the Today programme this morning, Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith was asked about the idea that it was the policy of the Agency to allow the Somerset Levels to flood (audio below; 7:00mins for key quotes). Smith was asked specifically about a policy document from 2008 which referred to the possibility - so-called option 6 - of allowing parts of the Levels to flood:

Policy Unit 8- Somerset Levels and Moors
Policy option 6 – Take action to increase the frequency of flooding to deliver benefits locally or elsewhere, which may constitute an overall flood risk reduction.
Note: This policy option involves a strategic increase in flooding in allocated areas, but is not intended to affect the risk to individual properties.

Smith was absolutely adamant that the Agency had no such policy:

No, that certainly hasn't been ...certainly since I've been chairman of the Environment Agency, which was after that document, which I have to confess I've never seen and never taken any notice of.

...that is certainly is not Environment Agency policy as of now, hasn't been for the last five and half years while I've been chairman...

Which is why this second document, from 2012, is such a surprise. This is the North and Mid-Somerset Flood Management Plan, put in place some four years after Chris Smith became chairman and seems to suggest (p.20) that Option 6 was in fact the Agency's preferred policy for the Levels.

The vision and  preferred policy
Policy Option 6 - we will take action with others to store water or manage runoff in locations that provide overall flood risk reduction or environmental benefits. By adopting this policy and redistributing water some areas will be subject to increased flooding while others will benefit from reduced flooding. The aim is to achieve a net overall benefit. The distribution of floodwater between moors can be determined to some extent by the use of sluices and other structures on the rivers. The distribution of floodwater has  developed to some extent by historical ‘accident’ rather than design. When considering the distribution of  assets across the sub-area it makes sense to direct water to areas which have limited assets at risk.  By redistributing floodwater, primarily from upstream of Langport to the King’s Sedgemoor Drain, the overall damage and disruption from flooding would be reduced. Other redistribution options may also be possible,  although modelling has shown that technically not all options are feasible.

Oh dear.

Chris Smith floods

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Reader Comments (93)

Dissected skewered and kebabed.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I'd like to hear him explain how it is possible to increase flooding while not "affecting the risk to individual properties."

Not to mention how you continue dredging when your quango has long since sent the machinery to be scrapped...

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Should open the (ahem) flood gates for a legal case against the EA and by implication the Govt, and EU.

Might not go anywhere, and Green Cam is to blame, but it'll also be very hard for Milliband and Co, CCA-ers and the EU fans to avoid responsibility for this.

Popcorn.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

In BBC's Countryfile TV program last night (BBC1 TV Sunday 9th Feb), the "experts' consensus" was on full display.

That is, (they say), fighting the Environment is a war humans can't fight or win, the best thing we can do is manage an orderly retreat. In East Anglia, that meant letting the sea breach existing dunes and sea defences. Same at Spurn Point near Hull. Now the same on the Somerset Levels.

This "Environmental Pacifism" certainly seems like a coordinated policy.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Macdonald

I think a resignation is in order for the rotund one.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Humans can't fight the environment? What? What do these "experts" think humanity have been doing these past few thousand years? Seems some of these "experts" want us to go back to nomad times hey?

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSSN

"This "Environmental Pacifism" certainly seems like a coordinated policy."
Not the way the Dutch are doing it. I believe from BBC news last night it was said they spend four times as much on flood defences as Britain.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

As for 'abandoning East Anglia to the waves' - coastal erosion is an age-old problem here and we were never doing anything about it anyway (and none of it is climate related anyway, no matter how hard Countryfile try)

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTBYJ

Let's give Chris (call me Lord) Smith a break.
He only gets paid expenses of £100k a year for a few hours a week of bumbling about at the EA; hardly a fortune, is it?
Expecting him to know or understand anything about what and how this agency operates is, IMVHO, is totally unreasonable, and even more so when he has is forced to moonlight at other part-time activities to keep his head above water.
That's way above his paygrade!
Shame on you, BH and commentators.

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

"This "Environmental Pacifism" certainly seems like a coordinated policy."
Not the way the Dutch are doing it. I believe from BBC news last night it was said they spend four times as much on flood defences as Britain.

Feb 10, 2014 at 2:53 PM | John Peter
==========================================================================
They probably have four times as much land at danger of flooding. The difference is that they have spent their money well, we haven't. The EA looks after itself first, what is left over is used for what they dhould be doing. And even that they **** up

http://order-order.com/2014/02/10/staff-cuts-are-not-the-problem-at-the-environment-agencywhistleblower-management-just-want-to-expand-kingdom/

EA statistics
More was spent last year on PR than on dredging.
Cost of pensions last year. £200 million. Total staff costs with pensions, £592 million. I'll say that again. Five hundred and ninety two million pounds.

This is the essence of Quangocracy. No accountability. Huge rewards for those at the top. Huge pensions. The public sector at its very worst.

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Cyril Smith?

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Ah. East Anglia. Some years ago, when Hilary Benn was Environment Secretary, he stated that no more money would be spent protecting those areas of the coast in East Anglia that were subject to erosion.

Oddly, that edict "left out" his farm, on the coast in North Norfolk, and thousands of pounds were spent shoring up sea defences around his farm.

Mr. Benn is a Socialist.

http://iaindale.blogspot.co.uk/2008/04/do-as-you-would-have-done-to-yourself.html

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

The point about 'environmental pacifism' (a good label) is that it is predicated on a lie in the first place. If our ancestors were reclaiming land from the sea in the 16th Century (which they were, on Romney Marsh) with no technology beyond shovels and picks, how on earth can it be 'too difficult' to preserve the land they reclaimed now that we are in the 21st Century?

What is at work here is a mindset based on the imagined iniquity of mankind and mankind's progress. It's an auto-immune disease whereby society actually turns inwards and destroys itself. It is, for all practical purposes, a mental illness.

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

So (Lord) Smith thinks the EA can move water around to flood some areas while saving others and overall achieve a net benefit. Hmmmm.....sounds like a right.....Canute (resisted the old spelling....)

Meanwhile, WAT R4 wheeled out the author of the reports who was indignant that no-one had taken him seriously and carried out his controlled flooding. It's enough to make you want to bite the furniture!

Oh, and not "Environmental Pacifists", more like "Conscientious Objectors" cowardice in the face of the enemy.

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Just realised, an "Environmental Conscientious Objector" would make an ECO.... <sorry>

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Harrabin has a mole inside the EA board

A board member of the Environment Agency has defended a controversial management plan that might have contributed to flooding of farms in the Somerset Levels.

Feb 10, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Uncle Badger 3:32

I like it! "Environmentalism - an auto-immune disease of the mind."
I might nick that for an email sig file.
SimonJ

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonJ

So humans can't fight the environment but we must fight climate change. I sense some confusion here.

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterhebe

Smith said he had no knowledge of the 2008 policy and didn't take any notice of it anyway.
Which is it? Can't be both, can it?

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

I'm impressed!

Lord Smith is using the 'Shaggy' excuse - see Official Video

I hope it works better for him....

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

If he said he hadn't read it, but actuallly knew about its existence, the not taking any notice is deliberate, then.

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

As someone else pointed out on the other thread, the insurance companies will probably be all over this like a disease.

Ironically, and old college friend who worked for the EA about 10 years ago, in land drainage, on the Somerset levels, told me about the, ahem, lengths that housing developers went to in their need for an EA reports on the likelihood of serious flooding that might scare insurers. I doubt if he knew that it was, or was going to be, EA policy to actually create flooding. I hope he's well away from this.

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commentermichaelhart

Mr. Benn is a Socialist.

More like a marxist. I always thought that Benn felt guilty about his familly wealth and rather than give it away decided to fight for the good of the plebs.

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

That nice Lord Smith is obviously a cornered RAT, he has been caught actually lying and seen to be lying by omission.
His response to the government starting to blame him was to reverse the blame and say that a Budget cut last year only signed off £400,000 for work on dredging. But as most people now know the major dredging actually stopped in 1995 to 2005 depending on who you ask. Now the nice kind reporter did not follow up his initial question and ask
What about 2012, what about 2011, what about 2010 etc.
He also did not ask about £2,400,000 spent on EA public relations propaganda last year which could have been put to much better use.
Let's face it they have all been caught with their pants down and are in disarray.

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Lord Krebs has just been on BBC news telling us that while of course we can't know if an individual weather event is due to Climate Change ® the Met Office is sure that there may be some kind of perhaps change in maybe the frequency of this sort of thing, you know, so we should better well be prepared!

Feb 10, 2014 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

There is some of this in the western United States also, where flood control is losing priority to "natural" water regimes.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

[Snip - venting]

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Why on earth do we allow politicians to appoint all thier failed members to well paid sinecures.Ashton comes to mind it appears she has moved from job to job never having been elected once,just being a socialist is enough to be the highest paid civil servant on the planet.So it has proved with Smith appointed to a job which needs a feeling for the countryside which he is not able to get in his no doubt beautiful office.I note he was at the opera the night before spending a few hours on the submerged levels.Quite stimulating I should think brushing up no doubt for a tilt at a stint in the arts ballet should be his strong forte.For Gods sake go you have been on the public teat for long enough, take your many pensions and be gone with you.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoward Gregory

Up to their necks in useless excuses, hope the late snow one comes back to haunt him ;)

16.06 Professor Myles Allan, of the University of Oxford, said that there is reason to believe that climate change may be responsible for the recent weather conditions.
He said: "There are simple physical reasons, supported by computer modelling of similar events back in the 2000s, to suspect that human-induced warming of the climate system has increased the risk of the kind of heavy rainfall events that are playing a major role in these floods.
"But it is important to remember that other meteorological events that have caused flooding in the UK, like the rapid melting of late spring snow in 1947, may have been made less likely by global warming."


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/10627883/Flooding-crisis-weather-live.html

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

And to think that this dope Smith of Finsbury is also the Chairman of the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority)

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Oh for gods-sake Montford. This poor guy gets paid a hundred grand a year and works extremely hard. In fact the three days a week he puts in, with a 2 hour lunch break each day followed by the rest of the afternoon reading Dilbert on the loo, is almost the very definition of slave labour.

Do you expect the poor guy to actually READ the documents his agency produces on top of all that?

Pathetic.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Table 2.4.2 on page 30 is my favourite - so far. It purports to list things that might cause an increase or a decrease in sediment levels. climate change is listed in both columns.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNickM

Strange that; I emailed exactly the same link to the Daily Telegraph early this morning after the Smith interview.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterskynine

Howard Gregory ! Shame on you !

Don't you know that Cathy Ashton played a blinder in the negotiiations with Teheran and that the Iranians didn't run rings round her while crossing their fingers, at all ?

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

Yeo at the ECC hearing also said he hadn't read the IPCC reports. Obviously we need to make it clear to these characters, yes, we expect you to actually read carefully all the information on the subject, that's what we pay you for.

Feb 10, 2014 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

16.06 Professor Myles Allan, of the University of Oxford, said that there is reason to believe that climate change may be responsible for the recent weather conditions.
He said: "There are simple physical reasons, supported by computer modelling of similar events back in the 2000s, to suspect that human-induced warming of the climate system has increased the risk of the kind of heavy rainfall events that are playing a major role in these floods.
"But it is important to remember that other meteorological events that have caused flooding in the UK, like the rapid melting of late spring snow in 1947, may have been made less likely by global warming."

What are Myles Allens' Keywords - "reason to believe", "suspect", "less likely" - yes very scientific - wot scientist?

"1947, may have been made less likely by global warming" - so when did AGW start to take effect. We have them starting in the 19th cent for the temperature record, the second half of the 20th century was the big AGW time and now we seem to be creeping back to 1947. Is there any science here or do they just make it up as they go along!

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Hyrdologist, Dr Colin Clark suggests a very practical plan for avoiding future flooding in the Somerset Levels. 1) Dig / clear the ditches around fields & maintain them properly, 2) Improve pumping, 3) dredge rivers one side of the river at a time to protect the wildlife.

Google: "Floods on the Somerset Levels: a sad tale of ignorance and neglect"

http://www.waterpowermagazine.com/features/featurefloods-on-the-somerset-levels-a-sad-tale-of-ignorance-and-neglect-4172602/

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterrogue

The wording of Policy 6 in the 2012 document appears to have been drafted by Sir Humphrey Appleby:

"Policy 6
Areas of low to moderate flood risk where we will take action with others to store water or manage run-off in locations that provide overall flood risk reduction or environmental benefits
This policy will tend to be applied where there may be opportunities in some locations to reduce flood risk locally or more widely in a catchment by storing water or managing run-off. The policy has been applied to an area (where the potential to apply the policy exists), but would only be implemented in specific locations within the area, after more detailed appraisal and consultation."

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:13 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The 'Shaggy excuse" (updated)


INTRO

Dave, Open up, man!

What do you want, Smithy?

The press just caught me!

You let them catch you? How?

I don't know what to do...

Say it wasn't you

Alright..

RAP Starts...

I was on Today and they caught me red-handed
supporting a 'Flood Somerset' policy.
Evan Davies had a full set of details,
I think it's looking bad for me.

How could I forget that I had
followed all the EU rules
Now there's flood water all over Somerset
And I look a perfect fool..."


Why your civil servants leave you unprotected?
All their duties be sadly neglected
They meant to hide this disaster from the papers
I do'n know what they think their game is...
Where your friendly environmental activist?
He better say you no blame for this mess.
Harrabin he got all the answers
the protesters just a load of stupid farmers...


But he asked me on the radio (It wasn't me)
Showed the latest policy (It wasn't me)
Had the Flood Management Plan (It wasn't me)]
Even put it on the telly (It wasn't me)

......

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Watching BBC news? Much closing of ranks going on. EA going to get away with this. Somehow the media need to see the difference between the workers on the ground, who should be praised for all their efforts at the present time, and the overblown management, where the policy decisions have been made that cause the problems. They should still be taken to task and not allowed to get away with it on the backs of the guys on the ground.

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermiket

It's interesting to do a word search on the first document Bish linked above - the Parrett
Catchment Flood Management Plan.

Environment… 700 +

Sustainab……. 60 +

Dredg… 7

You can see where their little green hearts lie.

(With the friggin' voles)

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:42 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Myles Allan, up at Oxford orated thus:

simple physical reasons, supported by computer modelling


Well, if its supported by "computer modelling", hells teeth then shurly there can be no mishtakes - that's kosher, nailed on, undeniable, Myles said so, 110% correct then.........isn't it?

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

These proposed" policies" make general sense to me and I have been responsible for preparing flood management plans for areas similar to the Somerset Levels. Spillways to allow planned flooding of agricultural land will reduce peak flow in the rivers and reduce the risk of dikes overtopping into higher value floodplain areas. The key sentence in Policy 6 is:

"but would only be implemented in specific locations within the area, after more detailed appraisal and consultation."

I think the use of the word "policy" is poor. and hence Smith seems to have been caught out. A better word for the intent of the EA report would be "strategy". Even then it can only be implemented if there is agreement with the landowners which is implied by "consultation". I suspect that the required process for implementation of these "policies" has not yet been competed.

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterpotentilla

Why on earth do we allow politicians to appoint all thier failed members to well paid sinecures.Ashton comes to mind it appears she has moved from job to job never having been elected once,just being a socialist is enough to be the highest paid civil servant on the planet.So it has proved with Smith appointed to a job which needs a feeling for the countryside which he is not able to get in his no doubt beautiful office.I note he was at the opera the night before spending a few hours on the submerged levels.Quite stimulating I should think brushing up no doubt for a tilt at a stint in the arts ballet should be his strong forte.For Gods sake go you have been on the public teat for long enough, take your many pensions and be gone with you.

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoward Gregory

IN 2002, when I first arrived in the UK from NZ to experience the country and culture which my grandparents had fled, my first impression of the river systems and their associated flood plains was that most of low-lying ground in areas I had visited was operating without much protective 'freeboard' - any English colleagues I shared my thoughts with pooh-poohed my well-meaning comments and insisted that any potential flooding problems were solved long ago by the application of 'good British engineering'. They were very obviously unaware of their own history or of the Greenist idiots working in the manner of a wartime Underground to undermine centuries of work (carried out with nothing more than picks, shovels, horses and sweat).
It is now very obvious that nothing less than a major purge of the Green Fifth Column must happen if the UK is to survive the vagaries of the weather it has coped with for hundreds of years.
And Lord Smith appears to be the worst example of a modern Socialist - ignorant, grasping and quite without priciples who has been promoted way beyond his not-very-impressive .abilities.

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

@ Harry Passfield Feb 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

No insults to conscientious objectors please, they were very brave people, unlike the quangocracy who seem to believe in hiding behind their own staff.

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Peacock

We have to get used to all this extreme weather occurring with increased frequency. It's all due to climate change according to John Snow and his "science" correspondent Tom Clark on Channel 4 News. No ifs or buts or maybes. And a woman interviewed on the SW news said what do you expect when the Environment Minister doesn't believe in climate change.

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:26 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It is an ill wind that does not blow anyone any good.....The thing with floods etc is that it extracts money from the tight purses of the assurance companies ....we the carpet layers, furnishers, mopper uppers thrive right now,,,,and, and, and it is money spent right here and right now,,,,the bigger the flood etc the bigger the jump in GDP

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterFundMe

Can't see no Environment Agency staff on any of the news channel. Where are they all? At their warm homes claiming overtime?

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMayo

Here's the transcript of this morning's interview with Lord Smith:
https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20140210_r4

Feb 10, 2014 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

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