The Geographical Journal

The ‘unfairness’ of flooding

By Kelly Wakefield

It has been a year since the floods in Cockermouth, Cumbria devastated the county with 1300 homes flooded and thousands of people evacuated between the 18th and 20th November 2009.  According to a report in the Guardian there are still 30 homes unliveable and on average it took residents 6 months to move back into their homes.  The story of the Cockermouth residents is poignant in that it is not an isolated incident.  As the one year anniversary of this natural disaster commences, flooding has been reported in Cornwall with more than 100 homes having to be evacuated and gale force winds causing constant disruption.  The BBC reports that people were trapped in their cars and homes as floodwaters reached 6 ft (2m) in depth.  The injustice of flooding is obvious to the victims and also to those outside of the floods.  The Cockermouth Flood Action Group (set up in 2005) and proactive since 2009 has members who have had problems with high insurance premiums and excesses or just unable to get insurance since the flooding.

Johnson et al in their 2007 article discuss the fairness of decision-making processes and outcomes  of flood risk management (FRM).   They draw on three social justice models and the fairness principles currently employed in FRM decision making.  The paper concludes that a move in the direction of government funding in conjunction with lower investment decision thresholds would offer a greater contribution to equality.  Johnston et al’s article highlights academically what is felt by those people that have had to suffer the devastation of flooding and also denial of future home insurance and possibly the help they need from central and regional government.  The unfairness and inequality of flooding.

The unfortunate position that the Cockermouth and Cornwall residents as well as many others have found themselves in is that there is a long road ahead.  With insurance companies maybe unwilling to insure those that have been flooded before, the unfairness of the flooding is a constant reminder.

Johnson, C, Penning-Rowsell, E & Parker, D (2007) ‘Natural and imposed injustices: the challenges of implementing ‘fair’ flood risk management policy in England‘. Geography Journal, volume 173, issue 4, pages 374-390.

Connolly, M, The Guardian, Cockermouth, a year on from the floods’ 16th November 2010.

BBC, ‘Cornwall floods force evacuation of more than 100 homes’ 17th November 2010.

Cockermouth Flood Action Group

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