Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

‘We live in UK’s mini Venice that floods every year – nobody here buys carpets’

As Storm Babet lashes the nation with rain this week, thoughts have turned towards the Cornish town that is the most flooded place in the UK.

Looe takes the unwanted crown as the place most frequently inundated with water thanks to a combination of tidal conditions and a low-lying town centre.

Residents of this ‘Cornish Venice’ have become used to wading to the shops despite millions being earmarked for coastal defences.

The Mirror reports floods have caused an estimated £39million of damage between 2012 and 2017, with almost all the businesses in the town affected by the water surge.

Councillor Rob Hannaford said locals were “very resilient”, despite being affected by the flooding, with many even forced to have “pumps in the middle of their property” to help remove the water.

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He said: “They can’t get flood insurance because insurance companies say it’s too risky. Nobody there has carpets anymore because of the flooding, they are all tiled. It causes so much disruption to people.”

And scientists predict the settlement could become classed as a flood zone over the next decades, with the local train station underwater by 2150.

Climate change could mean more flooding for the sodden streets of Looe, according to local sustainability organisation Behaviour Change Cornwall.

The group, which recovers ghost fishing nets and ocean plastic from Cornwall’s coast to make products, said on their site: “Looe town at times is the Venice of the West: knee-deep in water which rises from sandy foundations beneath the streets, emerging from storm drains designed to take water away but which work just as well in reverse.

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“These floods are a frequent occurrence – so much so that Looe has the dubious honour of being the most frequently flooded town in the entire United Kingdom.”

It added that despite the challenges facing Looe and the people who live there, planned coastal defences and a determination to solve the problem meant “Looe’s resilience will continue – Looe may be historic – but we aren’t ready for it to become history”.

Cornwall Council is investing heavily in plans to save Looe from a watery end and the authority is exploring several coastal defence initiatives.

It said in a recent statement: “A number of different options have considered as potential solutions during the past 20 years. Following detailed consideration, only one – the tidal barrier scheme – was considered viable.

“In July 2015 Looe Harbour Commissioners funded work to develop proposals for a new food defence scheme. The outcome was supported by 95 percent of local residents and landowners.

“In 2020 Cornwall Council’s Cabinet agreed to support the development of the Looe Flood Defence project, allocating £2.3m from the South-East Cornwall Regeneration Programme.

“In 2021 the project was awarded a £2.3 million Defra Flood Defence Grant in Aid grant. This is being used to complete work on preparing the outline business case– the next key stage in securing the Government, and other sources of funding, needed to deliver the scheme.”

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