11th December Journal Column

hh By John Nielsen Director of CK21 and CIC/APS/CENE board member

The North of the country has been a little under the weather this week, literally. On Saturday, the majority of the North East and North West were struck by Storm Desmond which caused mass floods and devastation.
Carlisle in particular has been heavily affected, which was unexpected given that £38m was spent on flood defences in the area following the floods in 2005 which led to three deaths. Here we are 10 years later and the same is happening again, making me question whether the money was actually worth spending.

More than 3,500 properties flooded, 55,000 properties were without power and a number of people were hurt as a result of the flood devastation. Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne announced a £50m fund, which will mean families affected will be able to claim and the money will be administered by local authorities – good move!

However, for those affected in the industry, there will be a bit of a longer wait. The current level of damage to infrastructure along with current flood defences are being assessed, and funds will be made available accordingly.
Although the government have stepped up to helping those affected by the floods, they overlooked a document earlier in the year which could have been of some use. Back in March the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the built environment published their ‘Living with water’ report which gave recommendations for developing flood resilience. Let’s hope they revisit the document which is now incredibly relevant.
A good construction project plan will allow for unforeseen weather conditions, let’s face it, in the UK it’s not exactly unforeseen, so we should always have measures in place to minimise the effects.

Rain creates slippery surfaces, both on the ground and on tools and machinery, which sounds like an accident waiting to happen. I’d suggest installing protective sheeting around scaffolding, which will protect the site from wind and rain and allow for work to continue as normal in the safest possible way.

Always ensure you have protective sheets on hand to quickly protect materials. I see machinery and tools left out on sites in the rain uncovered, and it just makes me think of the damage, which could have easily been prevented by a simple polythene sheet. The effects of frost and snow (which is pretty much inevitable in the Winter) can be prevented by using straw-filled matting and polyurethane foam – something good to remember for the next few months given that the Met Office have predicted snow between January and March- hurray!
The power of the weather can create unforeseen problems, cause delays and health and safety risks, but there are measures that can be put into place to reduce the damage caused. So, let’s all plan ahead, schedule time for consequences of weather and have a winter where we concentrate less on project disruption and more on Christmas cheer.

CENE are hosting an event looking at Climate Change and Flooding Management on January 28, for more information contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email Leanne@cene.org.uk.