Strong majority of UK public slams government flood plans

Publication date: 28th January 2016

A strong majority of the UK public thinks the government is not spending enough on flood defences and should do more to prevent future flooding, according to a new survey by YouGov.

The findings are published this morning as flood-affected people and campaigners have started installing an artwork opposite Parliament displaying hundreds of testimonies from communities affected by the recent floods.

The stories gathered by Greenpeace include distressing accounts of parents carrying their children out of flooded buildings, older people trapped in their homes, and businesses being wrecked by floodwater. There are also passionate appeals to David Cameron to step up his government’s flood prevention plans in the face of the growing threat from climate change.

As part of the art installation, flood-affected people from Yorkshire and Cumbria and environmental campaigners are arranging 500 pairs of standing wellies on College Green, opposite the House of Lords. Each pair carries a personal message from a flood-affected person which will be read out.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Greenpeace UK shows nearly two-thirds of respondents (61%) think the government handled the flood response badly. An even stronger majority (74%) say ministers should do more to prevent future floods in areas at risk, and another 61% say the government is spending too little on flood defences.

Although dissatisfaction is higher among Labour voters, a majority of Conservative supporters also believe the government should ramp up flood prevention (62%) and invest more in flood defences (51%).

The results are published after parts of Cumbria and Scotland were hit by fresh floods yesterday, with over a dozen flood warnings in place across Yorkshire, Dorset, and Wales.

A petition launched by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and 350.org and signed by nearly 100,000 people will also be delivered to No 10 later today. It calls on David Cameron to plug the gap in flood defence spending and accelerate the roll-out of clean power.

Monica Gripaios, whose village of Hovingham in North Yorkshire was hit by floods last Christmas, said:

“We were away for Christmas but rushed back home when we spotted the flood warnings. What we saw was really scary – many roads were under water, the fields looked like enormous lakes, and the stream by our house was a raging torrent. It’s clear that with climate change this problem is just going to get worse. Our politicians need to start taking this seriously.”

Thousands of homes were flooded and people evacuated during widespread flooding caused by a series of storms which battered the UK earlier this winter. The Met Office confirmed December 2015 was the wettest and warmest on record for the UK, and last year saw the warmest average global temperatures on record.

Greenpeace has welcomed the government announcement of a new National Flood Resilience Review looking into how Britain can boost its defences against future floods. But campaigners are also calling for concrete financial commitments on flood protections, a review of land management and housing policies, and the roll-out of clean energy to help rein in the carbon emissions at the root of the problem.

In the wake of the floods, the government re-announced the same six-year £2.3bn flood defence capital spending programme already unveiled in 2014, but is yet to commit to the £2.5bn for the maintenance of existing defences recommended by the Environment Agency.

A Greenpeaceinvestigation also revealed the Environment Agency lost 230 staff working on flood risk management over the last three years. Just weeks before the floods hit, ministers had also rejected calls from their own climate change adviser for a more ambitious strategy to protect the increasing number of homes at high risk of flooding.

Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Hannah Martin said:

“With this artwork we’re taking the testimonies of flood-hit communities to where our political leaders can’t ignore them. For far too long, ministers have disregarded scientists’ warnings that climate change would drive up flood risk across the country. Now we want them to listen to the people who have paid a huge price for this complacency.

“These testimonies show flood-hit people are tired of ministers springing into action only when disaster strikes. The vast majority of the UK public want them to do more about preventing future floods. Unless we cut our dependence on the fossil fuels that are driving more extreme weather, we’ll keep pumping water out of a leaky ship whilst punching new holes in the hull.”

The wellies used in the art installation have been donated to Greenpeace and will be either be recycled, reused, or donated to people in need.

ENDS

Pictures of the art installation on College Green will soon be available here:

http://photo.greenpeace.org/shoot/27MZIFJ6R7631

Press contact: Stefano Gelmini, m 07506 512442, t 020 7865 8255, e sgelmini@greenpeace.org

For photo and video requests please email photo.uk@greenpeace.org

About the survey

All survey figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,694 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 21st January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).