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STILL HOMELESS A YEAR AFTER SUSSEX FLOODS

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Almost a year after floods hit the south of England, the effects are still being felt, reported BBC Radio 4's Today...
Almost a year after floods hit the south of England, the effects are still being felt, reported BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

In the town of Lewes, East Sussex, dozens of families are still homeless and a number of businesses have been forced out of the area because they cannot get insurance cover. A number of them are to hold a meeting this evening. In the high street homes and businesses are still boarded up,

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, who is to chair the meeting, said the insurance problem was likely to be long-lasting and could cause more damage to the town than the devastating flooding. Householders were unable to get insurance and the government's agreement with the insurance industry runs out next year. Many businesses could not get insurance at all - and others, only with massively increased premiums or high excesses.

Mr Baker said successive governments had failed to bring in measures to ensure there was adequate flood protection across the country, or to ensure there was one body responsible for flood protection measures.

'At the moment there are a myriad number of bodies - environment agency, district councils, county councils, crown estates - you name it; you've got powers but no duties. So the government has to sort this and put more money in to protect towns like Lewes, otherwise people will continue to live in fear of a recurrance of a flood', he added.

But Peter Midgley, Sussex manager for the environment agency, said the agency had been working hard on the flood defences in Lewes. They had been repaired - and more works were starting next week. Equally important, it had been looking at what it could do, and what it should do, to improve the standard of defences to protect against such extreme river flows that were experienced last year - probably the worst for 200 years.

Uckfield was upstream of Lewes, and if work were done in Uckfield the problem for Lewes would be worse. If work were done at both Uckfield and Lewes, then the problems down in Newhaven would mean flooding there.

Mr Midgely said the agency was going back to the residents of Lewes on 10 September to present what it could try to do to improve the situation. Lewes stood 'slap bang' on the flood plain of the river Ouse and that was the bit of land which the river used when it was very, very wet.

'We have to try to get that water away from Lewes, but without flooding anybody else', added Mr Midgley.

* see LGCnetfor 'PUBLICATION OF RESEARCH - THE FLOODS OF AUTUMN 2000'.

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