Don valley flooding and a political lesson

Photograph: Richard McCarthy/PA

Re recent flooding (Johnson accused of lack of concern amid fears of further rainfall, 13 November), in March 1947, as a bitter, snowy winter gave way to spring, large areas of the Fens flooded. Attlee’s minister of agriculture, Tom Williams, rushed to the area and took personal charge.

He dispatched a thousand troops, sent in hundreds of naval and other pumps, had light-gauge railway tracks laid and brought in amphibious troop carriers to fill in the breaches in river banks. The operation succeeded and Fen cabbages and potatoes saved Britons from hunger that autumn.

My father, a Fen farm manager and staunch Conservative, would sometimes declare “there’s no such thing as a good socialist”. But he would invariably add “except Tom Williams of course”. I doubt the present environment secretary will be similarly praised by political opponents living in the Don Valley in the years to come.
Gerrard Raven
Teddington, London

• You say in your editorial (Global heating means a wetter UK, so after the clean-up must come change, 13 November) that “local flood defence schemes, as well as land use and planning decisions, will rightly be scrutinised once the waters have retreated”. A good place to start is the Environment Agency’s 2010 Don catchment flood management plan.

One of the key messages for the Doncaster sub-area reads: “We need to make better use of the washlands and flood storage. This involves protecting the storage areas and available floodplain around Doncaster, which provide a route for floodwater during larger floods.”

It seems that this advice has been widely ignored. Any inquiry has to establish whether the local authority encouraged building development or was powerless to oppose it.
Chris Weeks
Virginstow, Devon

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