22 May 2024
Flash Flooding

Utter devastation, I thought as I saw the impact of the flash flooding in Ross-on-Wye last week.

It was not just that there was such extensive damage, made worse by the combination of drain and foul water. Or that homes and premises along Broad Street had been flooded which had never experienced it before.

It was also that the road surface was so bad -- before the flooding even occurred.

Ross Town councillors were rightly indignant about what had happened, and Welsh Water, Balfour Beatty and Herefordshire Council did well to put an emergency response fairly quickly in place.

Since then, at my urging, Welsh Water have made clear they will offer a generous and inclusive compensation package. As their CEO Peter Perry wrote to me on Wednesday: "We are very sorry for the impact and distress caused. We will do all we can to support all those affected and do right by them."

I and my team will continue to work with anyone locally who needs our help to make this happen.

But amid all this damage there is also an opportunity here: not just to fix the damage but to give Ross a real sense of change and renewal. How could this be done?

Everyone is feeling very knocked back in Ross at present. So why not lift parking charges on council-owned car parks for a few weeks, to give local businesses a boost?

On Broad Street, Welsh Water are looking to reinstate the pavements as they were, with what is to my eyes a rather ugly brown brick treatment. That is the statutory minimum. But why not have Herefordshire Council put in paving stones, as there are further up, and run them down the length of the street on both sides?

Instead of just checking for sub-surface damage, why not then replace the whole road surface from top to bottom, making sure the drains on both sides are good for another generation or more?

Going a step further, why not consult with Ross Town Council and local people about options to improve the streetscape across all the main streets of Ross? And then lay out a multi-year plan of improvements which could build local pride and attract new investment?

Yes, this would not be inexpensive. But the money should be there, from the extra £102 million which we recently secured from the government. Indeed, this kind of long term investment is exactly what that money is intended for.

November 9, 2024 will be a very big day for Ross: the reopening of the refurbished Market House, in the 300th Anniversary year of John Kyrle, the Man of Ross. Why not use that date to celebrate the regeneration of this gorgeous ancient market town?