Corkers Crisps CEO leads community campaign to tackle flooding
- 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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....”
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.”
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.
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.”