LAST Thursday, December 5, I looked in vain for any mention in The Westmorland Gazette that it was four years to the day since Kendal and much of South Lakeland was inundated by flood water.

This is the first year this sad anniversary has gone unnoticed in the Gazette, an absence made doubly poignant by a flood alert being issued on the day for the Kent and Bela and because of all of the recent suffering and loss of life in the Yorkshire and Derbyshire floods just 100 miles away.

Memories of the 2015 floods are still vivid in the minds of households and businesses which were washed out. In our little community we still remember neighbours who left, never to return to their homes. We remember frail neighbours carried out of our old folks' trust bungalows to hospital, one to die there within weeks, one to return but die, happily we hope, only weeks later.

We remember carrying out a disabled lady and her 86-year-old parents and cat. My most vivid personal memory is wading back into the thigh-high flow with a neighbour to retrieve her car keys, forgotten in the rush to leave and needed to save her car... she did! Sadly, that same neighbour is now under the care of Hospice at Home, bed-ridden on her top floor and dreading a bad weather forecast or a flood alert.

There must be many, many more such memories brought back each December 5, together with happier memories of the way neighbours and the whole of the town, and villages upstream and down, pulled together in the following days, weeks, months and years it has taken to get over the effects of the flood. Kendal and Kent villages showed that the true heart of our communities lies in the people: neighbours, friends and businesses that deserve, nay, have earned, as much protection from another flood as is technically possible.

Sadly, an ill-informed and anonymous group calling itself Save the Heart of Kendal has chosen to purloin the word "heart" and apply it to their totally misguided belief that Kendal can be protected from the ravages of future floods just by "natural" and "non-destructive" measures upstream. Their "heart" of Kendal is their personal, aesthetic preference to preserve their view of the town, for most of them as they drive through along the riverside. The wrecked lives, ruined businesses and trashed town which any further flood would cause again do not seem to figure in their reckoning.

The Environment Agency flood risk management scheme gives the best possible protection for the town, its people, homes and businesses. It is not perfect because, in a catchment like the Kent, perfect is not possible. It does what it says on the tin: gives protection for the maximum numbers from a one-in-100-year flood. A further clue is in the name, the Environment Agency: its first consideration is the environment in its widest sense; flora, fauna, landscape and humans.

The full facts of the EA proposals are available to all on its website. Thousands of Kendalians were consulted and approved the detail designs in the EA drop-in centre in town. Our MP, our deputy leader of Cumbria County Council and the Leader of South Lakeland District Council all personally endorsed the EA plans, as did all 12 of the SLDC planning committee... twice!

Perhaps the anonymous person/people calling themselves Save the Heart of Kendal, together with those calling themselves Save our Rivers - possibly the same person/people - might consider lending a hand to the flood-free future of the town in a positive way; get involved with Kendal Emergency Planning Group, work with the working party set up by Kendal Town Council or, better still, get elected and take part in the town's future democratically.

Like our forefathers did in the 1970s and for centuries before, river defences need to meet the needs of our growing town, our changing river and climate pressures. We dread another flood. We deserve the best protection possible. The plans are in place, the money budgeted. Please let the world-acknowledged experts get on with it.

Ian Kell


Benson and Sandes Flood Action Group, Kendal