Urgent action is needed by central government to repair and strengthen the island’s storm-battered sea defences.
That’s the call from Castletown’s MHK Richard Ronan after a severe storm surge destroyed a section of the sea wall near the Old Grammar School and caused serious flooding to homes neighbouring the inner harbour.
A section of the seawall parapet at Shore Road, Gansey, was also lost during the violent storms on Friday and Monday.
Mr Ronan said his constituents were at their wits’ end – and they needed a localised floodwater barrier system for the vulnerable streets.
He said: ‘For the third time in a decade, Castletown has been especially badly affected with severe floods and storm damage, with damage to people’s homes in the Hope Street areas, Springfield Terrace, Athol and Milner Terrace and to our historic sea defences.
‘My constituents affected are at their wits’ ends with the risk that currently happens too frequently, with little interim remedial action being taken by the statutory authorities, whose responsibility it is to protect taxpayers, their homes, families and businesses from water and flood damage.
‘I have spoken at length to constituents and the local authority and it is vital that action is now initiated by central government to repair and strengthen our sea defences around the island but certainly in Castletown as a priority.
‘I will be meeting the Chief Minister and others responsible for resolving these issues in Castletown shortly, and will be recommending that we need expert advice and input to stop a recurrence, and if that advice has to come from off island then so be it.
‘Castletown and the south eastern coastline of the island clearly need much stronger sea defences, those people living in homes that have flooded need easy access to domestic and business floodwater barrier systems, and an element of instruction and ongoing updating in preparing for such issues.
‘Since being elected, I have already witnessed three bouts of extreme weather on the island, and it is vital that we learn from each and put plans in place to protect our people, our communities and their livelihoods. This is clearly the responsibility of our national government. Obviously similar issues also apply to my colleagues from Rushen and Ramsey, and I will be looking to work with them to get a clear all island approach to protecting our residents from the sea.
‘I do appreciate that money is tight in central government but as an island race, protecting ourselves from the sea is a fundamental right of residents – it is one of the primary responsibilities of any island government.’
Mr Ronan thanked all the volunteers who gave up their time to help those in need over the past week, also to the workforce of the town’s commissioners who he said had worked tirelessly, as well the staff and management of DOI, Castletown coastguards, fire brigade and police and the civil defence.
Chief Minister Allan Bell paid a visit to Castletown on Tuesday to see for himself the destruction.
He said: ‘I spent some time in Castletown this week looking at all the areas affected. Clearly there has been a serious breach of the sea defences and we need to resolve the situation as quickly as possible to se what short term measures could be brought in to prevent damage extending.
‘It also needs to be considered as part of a wide long term strategy for the island, a strategy that we can afford to put in place. In the present financial climate we don’t have spare money to allocate to this area and it would have to be taken out of existing heads of expenditure.’
He said that suggestions for a flood barrier for Castletown was ‘step too far at this stage’, pointing out that similar cases could be put forward for Douglas, Ramsey and Port St Mary.
A large hole first appeared in the car park next to the sea wall by Castletown’s Old Grammar School in February last year. A section of the car park was cordoned off this month after a new hole opened - even larger than the one last year.
Following Friday’s storm, the sea defences were breached and there was further collapse of the sea wall during the storm surge on Monday. A second void has appeared further along.