BISHOPS have demanded more support for flood-hit areas, as the
flooding crisis spreads across the south and the Midlands, leaving
communities stranded, and causing transport chaos.
Senior bishops met the Environment Minister, Lord de Mauley, to
emphasise the impact that weeks of flooding is having on
communities, farmers being among the worst-hit.
The crisis spread from the south-west to the south-east of
England and parts of the Midlands and Wales this week, as the
Thames overflowed its banks. About 1000 homes have now been
evacuated across Somerset and the Thames Valley, and thousands more
are still at risk.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, who is the lead
spokesman on rural affairs for the bishops in the House of Lords,
told the minister of his serious concerns about the overall impact
on the south-west. "We are hearing stories of the suffering of
people in flooded areas, and want to offer help wherever
He asked the minister what further aid the Government could
offer to the tourist industry, particularly in Cornwall, which was
suffering additionally as a result of the disruption in rail
travel. He emphasised the need for long-term co-ordinated planning
to balance the needs of the farming community with the desire to
protect wildlife, and the necessity of tree-planting, among other
measures, to help maximise water-retention.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said: "Whilst there have
been some excellent new flood defences put in place in
Worcestershire since 2007, the city of Worcester itself has once
again been crippled by these floods. I pay tribute to the emergency
services that are under increased pressure at this time, but it has
to be recognised that there is very real concern about the future
impact of flooding on the city. The economic and human cost of
flooding is very great."
The Prime Minister promised that money would be no object to
helping people get back on their feet; but he warned that the
country was in for the "long haul" with the floods, after the
wettest winter since records began. He said that Britain had to
build its resilience to floods, as the strong winds and heavy rain
and snow are forecast to continue. Scientists have warned that it
could take months for the water to recede.
Members of the armed forces have been drafted into many areas to
help shore up defences and to evacuate people from their homes.
The Archdeacon of Bath & Wells, the Ven. Andy Piggott, told
the General Synod this week of the suffering of people in his
diocese. He said that Mr Cameron's visit to one of the
worst-affected areas - the Somerset Levels - was "too little, too
"Business contracts have been lost; farmers and others who work
hard on the land or care for animals have seen their livelihoods
threatened. Rat-infestation has increased by an estimated 25 per
cent and, for more than a month in some communities, no
arrangements were made for the sanitary disposal of waste.
"The normal daily routines - things we all take for granted,
such as going to school, the doctor, or local shop - have become a
living nightmare," said Archdeacon Piggott.
Cornwall is cut off from the rest of the rail network, after
storm damage to a section of railway track in Dawlish, Devon (News,
7 February). The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, said
this week: "The storms appear, at present, to be relentless; and it
is their continuing nature, and our inability to recover properly
before the next one hits, that begins to undermine morale. It is a
strange experience, too, realising you are, to all intents and
purposes, cut off from the rest of the country. . .
"Far, far worse than the inconvenience to travel is the turmoil
being caused to families, property, and to livelihoods. So our
priority is to pray and to be there for those in the most
The Bishop of Crediton, in Devon, the Rt Revd Nick McKinnel,
visited people who had been evacuated from their homes in Dawlish
in driving rain this week. He paid tribute to the "brilliant"
community spirit in the town, where churches have joined with
councillors to raise money for those affected.
In the Somerset Levels, where the flooding has now reached its
sixth week, people and livestock have been evacuated from some of
the worst-hit villages. The Rector of St Peter & St John,
Moorland, in Somerset, the Revd Jane Haslam, said that about 400
people had been moved out of the village, and only a handful
remained in their homes.
People were "going through a whole range of emotions; some were
feeling bereaved", but the community spirit was "phenomenal".
Mrs Haslam said that the Church's role was to be there
throughout. "In a rural community like Moorland, with no shop or
school, we have a presence and are still there. We held a service
in nearby North Petherton at the weekend, asking people to gather
and comfort and pray for each other, and more than a hundred came.
We are there with people in their sorrow, but also to say: We have
In Surrey, which has also suffered severe flooding, the Vicar of
St Peter's with All Saints', Chertsey, the Revd Tim Hillier, said:
"At times like this, it's our role as a church to support our
community that's really hurting. We have the church open for people
to just be still if they like."
Ecclesiastical Insurance said that claims for January from
flood-hit churches had topped £800,000. General insurance claims
are likely to be in the region of £1 billion, insurers
A relief fund has been set up for farmers suffering in the
Somerset Levels by the Royal Bath & West of England Society,
and a scheme to supply feed and animal bedding to farmers is being
run through the Sedgemoor Auction Centre.
Question of the week: Would you
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