Flooding: National problem, local solutions?


Panel discussion

Saturday 11 March 2017 2.30pm – 6.00pm

Rheged Centre, Cumbria

According to the Met Office heavy rainfall events have become more frequent in the UK in the last 50 years. The devastating floods of winter 2015 will become the new normal.

Policy-makers and institutions are in the midst of considering their responses and responsibilities in light of the publication of the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review. In the meantime, and in the face of increasing flood risk, communities across the UK are coming together to build resilience.

Do local knowledge and practices hold the key to finding solutions to living with the risk of flooding? How can communities and agencies best work together to combat future flood risk?

Taking Cumbria as a focal point, the Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG) explored these issues during a public panel discussion held as part of the 21st Century Challenges series and regional programme with the help of the North West Committee.

Cumbria has suffered flooding repeatedly over the last decade, meaning Cumbrians have had to regroup, rebuild and develop new strategies to protect themselves. Following 2015’s Storm Desmond, the Cumbrian Floods Partnership was set up to bring together all those involved in and affected by flooding, and to identify additional flood protection measures required for the region. After a year in operation it is timely to reflect on the work being done and consider whether there are insights for the rest of the UK.

Are there local solutions to this national problem?

Chair and Panel

The event was chaired by Mike Zeller, Presenter of Mike Zeller at Breakfast on BBC Radio Cumbria

Mike mike-zeller-150-x-150Zeller presents Mike Zeller at Breakfast on BBC Radio Cumbria. A proud Cumbrian by birth, radio has taken Mike all over Britain, doing a multitude of different jobs at all hours of the day. In December 2015, Mike’s home was flooded by Storm Desmond and he had to be rescued by boat the following morning. However, he was back at work the following day, and a few days later, he hosted a special evening show for BBC Radio Cumbria entitled ‘Floodline’, which gave flood victims a chance to ring in, share their experiences and receive advice from experts.


Dr Jenny Benson, Flood Fund Programme Manager, Cumbria Community Foundation 

Picture © Steven BarberJenny Benson is the Flood Fund Programme Manager at Cumbria Community Foundation (CCF). She is responsible for leading the development and delivery of the £10.3M Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund programme. The Fund was established, through a national fundraising appeal led by CCF, to support individuals, families and communities affected by the devastating December 2015 floods across Cumbria. A year after the floods over 2,700 flood affected households and 113 community groups across Cumbria have been supported.


David Black, Chair of Roe Catchment Community Water Management Group

david-black-150x150David Black is Chair of the RCCWMG, which was set up in 2013 after the River Roe breached its banks and flooded a number of homes in the villages of Highbridge and Stockdalewath. The vision of the RCCWMG is to develop a collaborative relationship with Environment Agency and other stakeholders to deliver transformational change in the management of rural river catchments. Since its inception, villagers have united and have successfully co-ordinated river clearances, set up an emergency flood plan, obtained grant funding for a student and trialled natural flood management techniques with the Eden Rivers Trust.


Sue Cashmore BEM, Chair of Cockermouth Flood Action Group                    

sue-cashmore-150x150 Sue Cashmore is Chair of the CFAG, which was set up in response to the 2005 floods and works with the agencies responsible for flood prevention in the local area to achieve reductions to the flood risk. CFAG secured a £4.5 million flood alleviation scheme, completed in 2012, which included the first rising barrier within the UK. In 2013, Sue was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work with the Group.



Adam Day, Founding-Member of Cumbria Farm Flood Action Group

adam-day-150x150Adam Day is a founding-member of the Cumbria Farm Flood Action Group, which was established by a number of organisations, including The Farmer Network and the National Farmers Union (NFU), in the aftermath of Storm Desmond. The primary aim of the group is to ensure that farmers are supported from a business and welfare point of view. The group contacted all farmers in affected areas to find out what support they needed and to assess the extent of the damage. This information was gathered and analysed on behalf of the group by The Farmer Network, the NFU and Westmorland Agricultural Society, and used to inform the authorities about the scale of the support farmers require.


Celia McNally, Catchment Director for the Kent & Leven, Environment Agency

Celia McNallyCelia McNally is Catchment Director for the Kent & Leven Rivers under the Cumbria Floods Partnership. The Partnership is re-examining the river catchments in Cumbria from the source to the sea to identify ways to manage and reduce flood risk at the same time delivering wider benefits to the local economy, landscape, wildlife and water quality. Celia works closely with communities, organisations, farmers, businesses and landowners to identify actions already being taken in the area and to develop a longer term plan.

Professor Alan Werritty, Emeritus Professor of Physical Geography, University of Dundee

alan-werrity-150-x-150Alan Werritty is Professor Emeritus of Physical Geography, University of Dundee and former Research Director of Dundee’s UNESCO Centre for Research on Water, Law Policy and Science.  Alan’s current research focuses on climate change, flooding and societal responses to increased flood risk. Since 2002 Alan has advised the Scottish Government on drafting and subsequently implementing the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2007.  He organised a Royal Society of Edinburgh Conference in March 2017 “How can we learn to live with floods? Challenges for science and management” reflecting on lessons to be learned in Scotland from the 2015/16 winter floods.  Alan is a Trustee of the Scottish Flood Forum.


With exhibits from:

  • Slow the Flow project – Cumbria Wildlife Trust
  • Keswick Flood Action Group
  • Friends of the Lake District,
  • University of Cumbria
  • Lancaster University
  • Martin Hodgkiss (Environmental documentary photographer)
  • Cumbria Community Foundation
  • Cockermouth Flood Action Group