Splashing out on sea defences

THE United Kingdom has just experienced the wettest June on record coming straight after the wettest ever May.

We’ve seen the terrible pictures of incidents of flooding all over the country that has caused millions of pounds worth of damage and sadly caused the loss of some lives.

The storms that struck the North-East on Thursday afternoon were among the most awesome in living memory. Some areas of Gateshead in particular resembled the River Tyne and the shot of lightning striking the Tyne Bridge will be remembered by everyone for years to come.

We got off relatively lightly in Hartlepool last week although it certainly didn’t seem that way at the time.

I was filling up my car with petrol when the skies opened and I was drenched within seconds.

I wasn’t too happy but my cursing turned to laughter a few minutes later when I saw one of the funniest things I’ve seen in ages.

I was driving up Easington Road towards the Shell garage and a car was waiting to come out of the junction that acts as the entrance point to the new houses that have recently been built.

The road had by now turned into a stream with puddles three or four inches deep all the way along. The van in front of me drove through a puddle doing about 30mph causing a wall of water to cover the car at the junction.

Unfortunately for the female driver of the car, her young son, sitting in the backseat, had wound the window down to get a better view of the storm. The look on her face was priceless as they both got engulfed by the tidal wave. It was one of those moments when I wish I had a camcorder handy!

This type of weather is no laughing matter though. It can cause untold damage and turn people’s lives upside down. We have spent a few million pounds in Hartlepool over recent years on trying to solve the flooding problems in our worst-hit areas.

I believe we have been really successful in our efforts and have solved most of the high risk problems.

That said, we cannot afford to be complacent and we will continue to work proactively to try and solve flooding issues before they happen.

This is why our coastal defence programme is so important.

A lot of money has already been spent on bolstering our sea defences along the promenade and down towards Seaton Carew.

We are currently consulting on the next phase of those defences as part of the Seaton Carew masterplan.

We have also recently been successful in securing funding from the Environment Agency to carry out works along the town wall on the Headland.

The works will strengthen the wall, replace the groynes and increase the protection to the adjacent and surrounding properties.

It is vitally important that we continue to strengthen our sea defences and protect the town as much as possible from the risk of flooding.

The weather is so unpredictable nowadays that the unthinkable could happen at any time. Hopefully it won’t but from where I’m sitting, the risk seems to be getting greater and if we don’t do all we can to mitigate that risk now, then we would be letting down our future generations who would be left to clean up the mess and count the cost when it eventually does happen.

I know there has been some scepticism around the council spending money on sea defences and please feel free to raise any concerns you may have during the consultation periods but please bear in mind that the risk of flooding and/or a tidal surge is very real and if something like that ever does happen, I don’t want to be accused of being the person who did nothing about it.

We have been very fortunate in securing the necessary funding to carry out these improvements and hopefully the recent bad weather will help serve as a reminder as to why we are doing it.