Yesterday, in my brief post just after returning I mentioned in passing, and in a joking manner, that I noticed that even though there were floods everywhere the Thames Gateway building projects were continuing a pace. The reason I mentioned it is because as we know quite well, the entire project is being built on reclaimed flood plain mostly consisting of marsh.
Each time the Thames Barrier is raised, many of these flood plains swell with excess after from high tide, and when you add the rain of last week it becomes clear why we have flood plains in the first place.
And yet, yesterday, in a classic piece of joined-up Government that is impossible to satirise we had the news from Yvette Cooper (why doesn't she call herself Balls?) that the Government was to plough on with its house building project and would not avoid using flood plains.
In a most bizarre display of argument, Cooper claimed that because the Romans built York on a flood plain and defence then why couldn't we? She also pointed out that Downing Street was on a flood plain, which is actually irrelevant to her point about whether it is right or wrong.
The Roman analogy is absurd anyway simply because the difference of urban density. Building flood defences in Roman times largely meant ditches and walls and they didn't have to worry themselves with such non-porous water holding materials like tarmac.
Perhaps the Housing Minister is confused because she also heard the Romans built roads? Let's also remember that the York that the Romans built was on the highest land within a flood plain. It was on the land that, during your atypical flooding was the little mound exposed and and untouched.
Yvette Cooper is not however talking about building Mott and Bailey type dwellings - although perhaps she is, that might explain her plan for homes that are 'carbonfree'. Mud is the new brick! New Labour home building - Back, not Forward.*
Sarcastic mickey taking aside though, the real problem here with what Cooper is proposing is thinking that it's all about building defences. If we just take the Thames Gateway as the example area which just happens to be where the bulk of the building will happen it becomes clear it's not that simple.
Take a look at the river Thames through London heading east over the years and it's clear what going to happen. Every time we have built in the natural flood plains we have shifted the flood plain along the river until the next building project.
A significant amount of the already built
Of course, there will be those who say "we need these houses!" or "you just want to help the few, not the many", perhaps even allegations of nimbyism. Far from it though. We do indeed need to build houses, but we shouldn't be even thinking of doing it on flood plains that have, as a result of historical defence building, become larger and larger as they've been moved by our actions.
* Yes. I was mixing historical metaphors between Romans and Anglo-Saxons. It's irrelevant to my point though so don't even bother going there.