Wednesday, 19 November 2014

"Look to Your Own Defences"

This morning, there was a piece on the Today programme about flood defences in Snettisham, in Norfolk, where government funding is about to be withdrawn, and the local people have been told they will have to sort out their own, voluntary-funded, flood defence scheme. This affects farmers, caravan site owners, and residents of the village, some of whom will not, or cannot, pay towards their own defence. As one woman said - why should they? It should be a government responsibility. Another man involved with the scheme said that, if people didn't pay into the voluntary scheme, they would have to think very carefully about where they put the flood defences - in other words, they would not be protecting some areas.

It made me think of the Roman legions leaving Britain (the traditional date for this is 410AD), leaving behind a letter to the civilian leaders which basically said; "Look to your own defences."

Not far from where my Young Man lives, in Abbey Wood, South London, there are the ruins of Lesnes Abbey (after which the Wood is named - the trees come right down to the edge of the ruins). Although it was close to London, and had the patronage of several wealthy families who sent young men there to be monks, the abbey was always short of money. Why? Because they were legally responsible for the flood defences along that stretch of the River Thames.
So the medieval government took steps to make sure that protection was in place, by making the biggest local landowner responsible, but our government today withdraws from the responsibility that they have had, and expects a voluntary arrangement to be enough to protect the people of Snettisham, and all the other coastal towns and villages that they are withdrawing funding from.

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