On Thursday 30 September, Westminster Council’s public meeting of the Scruitiny Committee looking at flooding attracted around 50 residents – who weren’t allowed to ask questions. Labour councillors’ attempts to ask questions were cut off. With more flooding on the morning of the 5th of October, our questions are more important than ever.
Here’s the questions Cllr Geoff Barraclough tried to ask:
Firstly, why were the authorities so slow to recognise the gravity of the situation?
The Council, Thames Water and landlords such as Notting Hill Genesis simply were not available when their residents and customers were desperate for help and advice.
Why was so little assistance been provided in days and weeks that followed? Residents tell us that Westminster and Thames Water staff have been friendly but not empowered to give practical help.
And now, nearly 3 months later, tenants of both the council and Notting Hill Genesis are still waiting for repairs to start. Many are living in inappropriate B&B accommodation or huddling upstairs in maisonettes where the ground floor is unusable.
Secondly, why did the Maida Vale flood defences fail?
These were constructed at great expense, some £15m, after two major floods.
Were these two massive overflow cisterns not switched on? If they were, how did they come to be overwhelmed so quickly?
And what did the Fire Brigade do to make the water disappear almost instantly? What extra sewer capacity did they know about and could this have been activated earlier if Thames Water or Westminster Council had been awake to the danger?
Thirdly, should residents be flood proofing their homes, for example with non-return valves or uPVC doors?
And who should pay for these expenses? Many believe Thames Water and Westminster Council, who are jointly responsible for flood prevention, should make a contribution. If we can afford a £6m artificial mountain at Marble Arch, we can afford to help local people in their hour of need.
Finally, and most importantly, what actions need to be taken now to prevent this disaster happening again?
Whether it’s planting trees, enlarging the sewers or banning basement extensions, or all of the above, we need to start now because climate change has set the clock is ticking.