Corkers Crisps CEO leads community campaign to tackle flooding

Burst banks of the River Ouse, December 2020

The Great Ouse burst its banks on September 26 2020. - Credit: Terry Harris

Farmer, businessman and crisp entrepreneur Ross Taylor is on a mission – to tackle flooding across the Fens and East Anglia.

He has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the lack of maintenance of our waterways.

FLOODING Severe flooding in Huntingdon has left gardens underwater.Monday 01 February 2021. Pictur

Severe flooding in Huntingdon has left gardens underwater. Pictures taken on February 01, 2021. - Credit: © Terry Harris

“In my view, and for whatever reason, the Environment Agency and other authorities haven't been doing their jobs for a long time,” he said.

“Is it money? Is it bad management? Who knows, but it needs to get sorted now.”

A successful farmer, and owner of Corkers Crisps that suffered a damaging fire last year, he also owns a growing logistics company near Huntingdon.

Blaze at Corkers Crisps factory at Pymoor.

In May 2020, Corkers Crisps, near Ely suffered a serious fire. - Credit: AERIAL VIEW SOLUTIONS


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And it was flooding at his company, Buffaload Logistics at Ellington, over Christmas that prompted his campaign.

The Little Downham parish councillor has been voicing his concerns for months – but has decided to go public after seeing families lose everything they owned at Christmas.

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He has set up the East of England Flood Prevention Group, and its Facebook page already has around 1,800 members.

Every day, there are new posts about rising river levels, flooded homes and drainage issues across the region.

HRH the Princess Royal on her visit to Corkers Crisps near Ely.

HRH the Princess Royal on her visit to Corkers Crisps near Ely. - Credit: BRIAN STARLING (For Corkers)

The Environment Agency has said it is doing everything it can and is constantly monitoring the situation following the extensive rain experienced this winter.   

It said rainfall in November was 50 per cent more than what is usually experienced in that month. December was also the second wettest since 1981 – since records began.   

But Mr Taylor is not convinced.

Ross Taylor, CEO of Buffaload Logistics and Corkers Crisps.

Ross Taylor is the CEO of Buffaload Logistics and Corkers Crisps. He has launched the East of England Flood Prevention Group, a community campaign to tackle flooding. - Credit: Corkers Crisps

He said: “What happened to one of my businesses at Christmas has been a massive inconvenience, but a key driver of this for me is the impact flooding is now having on communities.

“The Environment Agency will tell us the floods happened because of bad weather and rain. But I believe the main river system for this area is full and it hasn't been maintained or dredged for years.

“The silt build-up means the rivers are full and there’s nowhere else for the water possibly go. There are no other options but for areas to flood."

He added: “In some places, there hasn’t been any maintenance for that many years the expense to do it now is colossal.

“Now you have rivers that are only running at 30-40 per cent capacity and some of the highest water levels we’ve seen in a very long time. It’s a scary situation.”

Mr Taylor was out on December 23 and 24 trying to manage the flooding at his Ellington site.

He is convinced the flooding happened because the Hundred Foot Drain between Earith and King’s Lynn has been neglected.

In a video posted on Facebook, he said: “There was a lot of rain, more than normal...

“We called people in with pumps just in case there was a problem because it just didn’t feel right. By about midnight, it was a metre-and-a-half deep at places in our site.

“All of a sudden at 1am, at the time I was on a digger trying to block things up, trying to protect things which was almost like fighting a losing battle....”

Dramatic skies over the Whittlesey Food Plains as the B1040 at North Bank is closed due to flooding.

Whittlesey Food Plains as the B1040 at North Bank is closed due to flooding in December 2020. - Credit: © Terry Harris

He then described how a metre-high wave overwhelmed the team.

Mr Taylor said: “It took people off their feet. It was unbelievable.

“It came to Ellington Brook, which goes into Huntingdon. It was something that unless you saw it, you wouldn’t believe it would happen.”

“It destroyed our operation. We had to stop and give up, and I’ve never given up in my life ever.

“We had to make an emergency plans, shut the operation, everything was damaged.”

Flooding at Buffaload Logistics

The team at Buffaload Logistics were overwhelmed by flooding at its site in Ellington, near Huntingdon, over Christmas. - Credit: Buffaload Logistics

On Christmas Eve, staff were relocated to another depot. The Ellington site is now operating at 80 per cent capacity – but there is still damage to sort out.

When it comes to flood management, Paul Burrows, a flood and coastal risk expert at the Environment Agency, argues that dredging is not the one and only solution.

FLOODING Severe flooding in Huntingdon has left gardens underwater. Monday 01 February 2021.

Severe flooding in Huntingdon has left gardens underwater. Picture taken on February 1, 2021. - Credit: © Terry Harris

He said: “Wide scale dredging is an expensive operation and we need to make sure that whatever we do is a good return on investment.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t the silver bullet for flood problems and the levels of water we’re seeing at the moment.

“What we need is a balanced approach to the measures that are taken which will make us more resilient when the area is next at risk of floods.”

He added: “Any work we do also needs to be evidence-based because ultimately, in a lot of cases, it is public funds that go towards these projects and this money needs to be spent wisely.”

Flooded home

Flooded home featured on Ross Taylor's video as he launched the East of England Flood Prevention Group. - Credit: Ross Taylor

Paddle borders brave the freezing washes at Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire.

Paddle borders brave the freezing washes at Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire in December - Credit: Terry Harris

Consistent Heavy flooding in fenland has uncovered a 17th Century English Civil War Fort.

Consistent heavy flooding in the Fens uncovered a 17th Century English Civil War Fort in Earith. - Credit: © Terry Harris

Dramatic red skies over flooding in Cambridgeshire. January 31, 2020.

Dramatic red skies over flooding in Cambridgeshire on January 31, 2020. - Credit: Terry Harris


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