Bishops look at flood threat to Norfolk Broads

NorfolkBroads2009: Two Norfolk bishops have gathered together experts, politicians and environmentalists to address the threat to the Norfolk Broads from flooding caused by climate and environmental change.

The Rt Revd David Atkinson, Bishop of Thetford, chaired a conference in Acle Methodist church, when a wide range of people and organisations who were concerned for the future of the Broads came together to discuss ‘Norfolk Flooding!  What can we do? ‘
Members of local government, environmental organisations, and many who live and work in the area, came together under the auspices of ‘Churches Together on the Broads’ to hear from expert contributors about how the county plans for, and deals with civil emergencies such as flooding in the Coastal and Norfolk Broads areas.
The Rt Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, opened the conference by telling of his concern over the impact of climate and environmental changes, not only on the landscape and wildlife, but on the many people who find themselves either directly or indirectly from disasters of flooding and coastal erosion.
Bishop Graham said: “There are no easy answers to these problems, but sometimes we look at the landscape without recognising the significance of the human beings who inhabit it. We’ve got to hold the two together.” 
He recalled his visit last year to Sea Palling, to bless the re-launch of the inshore lifeboat, adding: “It doesn’t take much for people to recognise that a community which is willing to raise money to provide a lifeboat to save the lives of those who occasionally came into contact with it, was one that itself was worth saving.”
Bishop Graham stressed: “What we haven’t done sufficiently, I think, is to recognise and explore the human dimension of the problems raised by coastal erosion and the prospect of future flooding. Some of that is on the agenda today. I believe that’s what makes this conference significant and valuable, adding: “The sums to tackle these problems seem small now compared with what’s been given to our banks which means any calculation is not simply economic.”
NorfolkFloodsPresentJohn Ellis, Head of Emergency Planning for Norfolk County Council, said: “I, together with my Emergency Planning Colleagues from the Local Authorities across Norfolk, and other key Partners welcome the opportunity to attend the ‘Churches Together on the Boards’ Conference, to discuss how we could all greater integrate with one another to enhance community resilience in Norfolk. 
“It must be recognised that the religious community have a lot to offer within our community, they have so many resources that can be used at the time of need, whether it be accommodation, staff trained with particular skills, actual real time knowledge of their community and who the vulnerable are.”

Delegates heard contributions from representatives of the voluntary sector (British Red Cross, the Salvation Army), as well as the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and Emergency Management representatives from District Councils and Norfolk Resilience Forum.
The Rt Revd. David Atkinson, Bishop of Thetford said: “This conference has demonstrated the importance of multi-agency planning for major incidents and highlighted the role that church communities with others can play in planning for and responding to emergencies.  I very much valued the collaboration between Churches Together on the Broads and representatives from the County Council and other agencies, and hope that will set a good precedent for future work together."
Michael Handley, Chair of Churches Together on the Broads, said: ”We are a voluntary group, drawn from the wide variety of churches in the Broadland area. As we do not have any particular political position, it has proved possible to host a day where people of all political positions come together and listen to each other.
“We knew that we did not have much idea of the official organizations and processes that would come into action should there be a disaster, and we needed to know them if we were to act sensibly and effectively in the case of one happening.

“The experience of working with each other, in the wider community, and with the helpful input of Officers from both Norfolk County Council, and their colleagues in the District, was very good. We wanted to know what we could do in the case of disaster, and the day laid foundations for future possibilities. I think that all our horizons were widened by listening to each other, and we think that our working together could continue.”

Above, conference presenters discuss the day. Picture by Barry Furness

Pete Gillett East Gate Trust, (Guest) 12/02/2009 18:00
So glad the Christians are waking up to the fact that we can do something. We have a vision to prayer walk the coastline this year from Yarmouth to Cromer. We are calling it Threading the Pearls following a vision I had of a pearl necklace superimposed over the maps of East Anglia many years ago. The pearls represent churches who pray and see God, places of faith, lighthouses of prayer and retreats. Would anyone interested in playing a part email me at Prayer (2 Chronicles 7:14)and the practical approach work well together.
Eric Lindo, HEARA (Guest) 17/02/2009 14:27
The conference was well-run, well put together with speakers drawn from across the Emergency Services. However, it did not tackle the immediate issue.
Having been heavily involved in the fight against the leaked proposal from Natural England to flood the north-east Broads, I was attracted by the pre-conference publicity and the comments of Bishop Graham. There is a huge issue of social injustice against which the support is needed of the Christian community. Of course, we have to face up to the consequences of global warming and work towards minimizing its effects. However, we are all equally responsible for global warming and we cannot expect those on the ‘front line’ to bear the cost of the whole of society’s carbon footprint.
The pre-conference publicity centered on ‘Norfolk Flooding! What can we do? Well the first thing we could do as a Christian community is to fight for social justice for those people in the front line. Few people realize that on the whim of a scientist paid from the public purse whole villages – homes for 4000 people - would have been wiped out, and for what? The options proposed had not been costed and nobody could explain the justification for the leaked recommendation – it was just a whim. The fact that what was proposed was completely contrary to the EU Human Rights legislation was ignored.
Since the fight began, politicians of all Parties have fallen over themselves to distance themselves from the proposals but the stigma will take a long time to be removed from the villages affected. The final report from Natural England will be published next month – March 2009 – which will be exactly a year since the ‘leak’. Is it too much to hope that Norfolk Christians will make their voice heard loud and strong?
Bishop Graham was right on one point. Don’t let anybody tell you that the country cannot afford to defend its coast. The latest Bank bailout announced a couple of weeks ago (£200bn) is the equivalent of 2000 years coastal defence spend which is currently £100m a year for the whole UK.
Eric Lindo
Hickling Environment & Residents Alliance
(3 miles inland and not in the front line)

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