Cumbria 'catastrophically' affected by Storm Desmond floods, MPs told


Cumbria has been "catastrophically" affected by repeated flooding over the last month, with homes flooded and businesses hit, MPs have been told.

Local representatives of the county have been giving evidence to the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on the devastation caused by Storm Desmond and subsequent storms and heavy rain.

Asked how the county had been affected, Lynne Jones, from Keswick who is chairwoman of the Keswick Flood Action Group told the MPs: "Catastrophically."

"The devastation that has happened with bridges down, particularly the A591, is a disaster for a county dependent on tourism, and people getting from one side of the Lake District to the another," she said, adding businesses would need a lot of support.

The floods had also brought three inches of mud into Keswick, leaving people's gardens covered in mud which had to be cleared away.

Rob Johnson, chief executive officer of the Cumbrian Chamber of Commerce said 10% of the county's businesses had been affected in the floods, "way above" the scale seen before.

"10% of our economy has been affected one way or another," he said.

And Keith Little, cabinet member for highways, transport and flood protection at Cumbria County Council told the MPs that 94 communities had been affected in the floods, in which one person died and 6,500 houses were flooded.

"It's been a horrendous situation just before Christmas," he said.

The heavy rainfall brought by Storm Desmond, which hit on December 5, came on top of two months of "pretty normal rain for Cumbria but the ground was absolutely saturated", he said, causing flooding much more quickly than expected.

Ms Jones added that in addition to the floods, there had been three near misses of bad weather for the county since the situation began, leaving people living with their nerves on edge for a long time.

Chairman Sir Philip Dilley, who faced criticism for holidaying in Barbados during the recent storms, will join chief executive Sir James Bevan and deputy chief executive David Rooke before the committee.

The hearing comes as communities have been warned that more heavy rain across the country could cause further flooding.

December ended up as the wettest month in records stretching back more than a hundred years for the UK, with almost double the normal amount of rainfall falling nationwide, causing flooding to homes and businesses and washing away cars, roads and bridges.

And there is still no let-up for some areas, with heavy rain and showers expected across England and Wales overnight and through tomorrow morning.

Falling on already saturated ground, the rain could cause more floods and disruption, the Environment Agency has warned.

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