LETTER: Stance on sandbags explained


It is important to point out that the borough council accepted professional advice in rejecting the use of sandbags as a means of flood defence.

I refer residents to Sir Michael Pitt’s highly respected independent report into the 2007 floods, which are now considered to be the greatest civil emergency in Britain’s history since 1945 and in which 13 people died.

Sir Michael’s report was published in June 2008 and deduced that sandbags were largely ineffective in protecting properties.

A quote from the report states “The Review was unable to obtain any significant evidence that sandbags were particularly effective during the 2007 summer floods in providing protection to individual households.”

For those interested in reading the report for themselves, I refer residents to section seven and also to the Government response to the recommendations of the Pitt report published in 2012. The Local Government Association commented in 2008 that ‘sandbags are seen by the public and the media as a panacea in flooding events and their existence and deployment constitutes one of the most fraught parts of the emergency response to flooding’. Similarly, much could be said of the use of sirens too. Sandbags were for decades the only option available to local authorities, even though it was well-known that they were neither efficient nor cost-effective. The Pitt report has radically changed the way local authorities deal with flood situations and there is no doubt that the very successful manner in which the Boston flood in December was dealt with proved the effectiveness of the new strategies recommended by that report. It is important to note that no lives were lost during the flood as a result of the flood. The Pitt report also recommended the use of modern methods of communication to inform residents of the possibility of a flood. Sirens could induce a state of panic which could result in chaos and subsequent loss of life as a result. Contact by phone, by email, through TV and radio and by door knocking are recommended as being much more effective methods and a much more efficient use of manpower. Local authorities have to be prudent in the use of public funds and in this time of austerity, Boston Borough Council and other public authorities have wisely chosen to adopt the best advice available to both inform and protect residents against flooding. I think we all understand the desire to fall back on traditional strategies in times of danger, but there are better methods and strategies available today and your borough council is at the forefront in using these to make good use of scarce public funds for residents’ benefit.

Coun Stephen Woodliffe

Boston Borough Council