Thursday, 31 December 2009

Greed behind West Cumbria flood disaster

IT WAS five years ago that United Utilities, which owns the Thirlmere reservoir (above), was first asked to lower the water level during the Autumn so that there was additional capacity to hold the winter rains coming off the Lake District Fells.

The private company refused to do so, claiming that its priority was to keep the reservoir full to the brim so that it could provide the necessary water to meet the needs of 300,000 homes in Greater Manchester.

Back in 2005, both Keswick and Cockermouth were flooded because when the above average rainfall filled Thirlmere to over-flowing, the excess water turned the River Greta into a raging torrent.

It was deja vu this November when heavy rainfall caused Thirlmere to overflow yet again. The result this time was that not only were Keswick and Cockermouth flooded again but also the main Northside bridge in Workington was swept away and PC Bill Barker lost his life preventing a major disaster by stopping cars from crossing the bridge.

Again, prior to the disaster, the Thirlmere Reservoir was full to the brim. This time to make the problem worse, work was being carried out on the Manchester aqueduct restricting the amount of water making its way down to the city which meant the reservoir was overflowing even before the heavy rains of November 19th.

If the water level in Thirlmere had been 3 meters below the reservoir wall, as was called for back in 2005, then this disaster wouldn't have happened because the abnormal rainfall would have been easily absorbed.

Critics of United Utilities say the company keeps the water level high so that water can be pumped out to Manchester using the existing equipment. If the water level was to drop, then new, more efficient pumps, would have to be purchased which would eat into the company's profits and its shareholders' returns.

There is no doubt that the high water level in Thirlmere was responsible for the devastation caused in Workington and Cockermouth.

Water levels in the reservoir are the responsibility of United Utilities so the company should be footing the bill for the damage they have caused and making sure that in the future the water level Thirlmere is never over the 3 meters from the top mark.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Ready for the General Election year

BEST WISHES for 2010, a year that will hopefully see further electoral progress for the British National Party.

No posts during December for very good reasons. My visit to Cockermouth just after the floods brought home the magnitude of what had happened. When you see the reality of people's homes and businesses virtually destroyed, words seem frivolous.

Updating my blog seemed trivial to say the least - especially with talk of politics and policies when the constituency where I am standing has been split in two by the loss of the two bridges that connect Northside, Seaton, Flimby and Maryport to the main town of Workington.

There's been a lot of gossip about what took place and just how a torrent of water was able to take out the main Workington bridge which had stood for nearly 100 years. It's important to fact find before pointing any fingers, and that's what I and my team will be doing in the run-up to the General Election.

Although, I wasn't blogging, I was busy with a trip to Brussels for some training and then a week in Strasbourg as the Parliamentary Assistant to Andrew Brons. This was a fascinating few days, researching for the numerous votes that were taking place, helping Andrew prepare for two speeches he made in the European Parliament and attending a meeting of European nationalists where I met Jean Marie Le Pen, his daughter Marine and the impressive Bruno Gollnish.

Below is a photo of us in Andrew's Strasbourg office, preparing for around 30 different votes on the Thursday morning.

The weather has been playing havoc here in West Cumbria and the rest of the North of England. When returning home from Strasbourg my eldest daughter met me at Leeds Bradford Airport. On the trip home there was a blizzard and we got stranded, first along the A1 and then on the A66. Despite landing just after 9.00pm, we didn't get home till three in the morning.

Then two days later I met my other daughter, returning from university in France, at Newcastle Airport. Here again we got caught in a blizzard on the way home and were trapped for an hour on the A69 because cars were unable to get up the hill at Haltwhistle. There were incredible scenes with cars sliding all over the road and others trying to climb the hill via the central reservation.

Here in Wigton we have been frozen solid for the festive week. Pavements are lethal and venturing out in the car takes ten minutes of preparation because of frosted windscreens. Very little football with Workington Reds not having played since a victory over Nuneaton saw us through to the next round of the FA Trophy. The next outing is due to be at Blyth on New Year's Day, but reports from Croft Park say the pitch is still frozen.