Floods top of the agenda for bishops

(Andrew Matthews/PA)
A view of flood water surrounding the village of Muchelney in the Somerset levels which has been isolated since early January.

Church of England bishops have raised concerns about the impact of widespread flooding in England with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The Bishops of Worcester, St Albans and Peterborough met with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for natural environment and science, Lord de Mauley, on Tuesday.

They raised their concerns for those worst affected and highlighted the action being taken by churches to support communities which have been struggling, many now for over a month.

The South West of England is suffering particularly badly, as farms have been flooded and the tourist industry is struggling with the disruption of rail travel. Sixteen severe flood warnings are currently in place, while around 1,000 properties have been evacuated.

Lead spokesperson on rural affair for bishops in the House of Lords, the Right Reverend Alan Smith said: "We are hearing stories of the suffering of people in flooded areas and want to offer help wherever possible."

He urged the Government to consider long-term solutions that will help farming communities while also protecting wildlife, a call that was echoed by the Bishop of Peterborough, the Right Reverend Donald Allister, who highlighted the serious impact that extreme weather is having on rural communities in particular.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Right Reverend John Inge, voiced his concern about the serious flooding within his own diocese.

"The city of Worcester itself has once again been crippled ... I pay tribute to the emergency services that are under increased pressure at this time, but it has to be recognised that there is very real concern about the future impact of flooding on the city," he said.

"The economic and human cost of flooding is very great."

While calling on the Government to take urgent action, the bishops also thanked the minister for the response so far. They praised the emergency services, voluntary organisations, churches and individuals for their hard work, focussing particularly on churches that are providing food and offering their buildings as evacuation centres for those who have lost their homes.

Bishop Smith is hoping to next meet with Ministers from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has lead responsibility for disaster and community resilience.

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