The Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is pressing its case for emergency funding following the recent extreme weather conditions.
HotSW has renewed its call for urgent Government assistance, together with the hardest hit counties of Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, to request assistance after flooding closed most rail services and caused significant damage to rail infrastructure throughout the HotSW area during the weekend, worsening last week’s situation.
In addition, torrential rain closed the three major roads south of Somerset – the M5, the A303 and the A358 – causing further chaos and highlighting the fragility and lack of resilience of the road network.
The plea comes as Transport Minister Norman Baker’s visit to the region on Thursday is cancelled.
The LEP has highlighted the serious economic cost the flooding will have upon businesses and communities, and is requesting additional funding to fix flood related problems, and take proactive flood alleviation measures for major conurbations such as Exeter and Taunton.
Tim Jones, Chair of HotSW, said: “In a volatile financial climate, the effects of the flooding can have potentially disastrous consequences for the economy throughout the HotSW area.
“As a result, we are urging the Government to provide emergency funding to help repair and rebuild key infrastructure, as quickly as possible to enable business to continue.
“We are already suffering with a lack of investment in our rail network in this area, and this flooding is a further devastating blow.
“It’s essential that transport routes into the area are not just repaired, but also reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose: connectivity – and reliability – is crucial to build and grow the economy, to access opportunities and compete effectively.
“Incidents of this type expose the insecurity of our transport networks and it is vital we explore ways and work together with central Government to provide greater resilience to the network.”
Trish Johnson, Regional Director for the Institution of Civil Engineers South West said: “The events over the last few days serve as a stark reminder that the area will continue to face the consequences of severe rainfall until action is taken to ensure we are more flood resilient.
“Flooding often leads to the failure of critical infrastructure networks such as power and transport, further restricting access to basic services when they’re needed most.
“Devon, Somerset and Cornwall are the most affected areas and the long-term effect on businesses could damage the area’s economy and the UK economy as a whole.”