SUMMER has finally arrived and the horror of last winter’s flooding might seem a long time ago.

But for many people it is very fresh in the memory. They are still coping with the consequences of inundated homes and businesses.

Some will not yet have returned to their flood-hit premises, others will be trying to sort out insurance claims. They may well be dreading what next winter’s storms might bring.

They have not been forgotten, however. The Government’s National Flood Resilience Review is underway and I have been looking at flood prevention measures and projects in the last couple of weeks. With my colleagues on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, I visited the Somerset Levels to see, among other things, the role played by dredging in preventing flooding since the catastrophic events of 2013/14 and also the way the local community has formed a partnership to reduce the long-term flooding risk.

And last Friday I was in Wensleydale to see the work being done to manage the river Ure catchment to hold more water in the hills and prevent it doing so much damage further downstream.

I met the people involved in the project including the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and the national park. They are working in partnership with local farmers to slow the flow of water through the River Ure and its tributaries.

A river table had been set up in the reception area of the national park HQ at Bainbridge which with use of sand, running water and other modelling techniques demonstrated how a river behaves.

Although essentially a model which my daughters would have enjoyed playing with, the river table showed how some of the techniques we currently use to manage rivers – like hard defences – can be counter-productive.

We then went to Matthew Bell’s dairy farm at nearby Semerwater to see some of the alternative methods of flood prevention – like planting vegetation on river banks to bind the soil, lessen erosion and slow run-off – which also have environmental benefits in encouraging wildlife.

These two visits have convinced me that a new approach to flood prevention is needed. The wellpublicised slow the flow project at Pickering has demonstrated the value of natural flood defences and the work being planned by the flood prevention group at Brompton, near Northallerton, is based upon similar principles.

I am sure these land management measures have a role in play in future flood risk management, along with dredging and, in certain circumstances, physical, hard defences.

I am also certain that river catchment partnerships like the one at Pickering and in Wensleydale which draw on the best scientific advice and also the breadth of knowledge in local communities are the way forward and will be reflected in the select committee’s report which will, in turn, feed into the Government’s current flood prevention review.

While there are no quick fixes, and I hope and pray next winter will be kinder to at-risk communities, we are making progress in finding more effective ways of preventing the life-changing flood events of 2015/16.

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