Senior minister grilled on why defences were not completed in time after 'traumatic' floods

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has called the recent floods to the Calder Valley "traumatic" after visiting the region today.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 1:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 1:32 pm

On Sunday, Storm Ciara ripped through West Yorkshire leaving Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Todmorden, and parts of Elland and Brighouse underwater.

It was the third serious flood to hit the Calder Valley region since 2012, leaving many homeowners and businesses asking why the region's £74 million flood defences were not completed in time.

Speaking at Hebden Bridge Town Hall, Ms Villiers said: "We've committed £74 million in flood defences for Calder Valley.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers

"We've every confidence the defences for the Mytholmroyd scheme will be completed this summer.

"Once delivered these defences will provide better protection against flooding for businesses and people within the area.

"It's important to recognise what's happened to Calder Valley, particularly Mytholmroyd, has been traumatic."

Reports have surfaced Ms Villiers will be sacked tomorrow as Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to reshuffle his pack.

Mytholmroyd homeowner, Roger Barr, 75 (left) with Tony Milroy, 72

When questioned if what she says matters, after the uncertainty surrounding her senior cabinet role, she said: "It does matter because there needs to be confident in the government.

"We're doing all we can do to help the public.

"I'd also like to recognise the efforts of the emergency services."

Since Sunday, many business owners and homeowners in Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge have been left frustrated asking why the flood defences were not completed in time, which started in Autumn 2017 – less than two years after the 2015 floods.

Remzi Sasma owner of Rendezvous bistro in Hebden Bridge

Roger Barr, 75, of Mytholmroyd, whose house sits between Rochdale Canal and the River Calder, said: "There's no way I could live here anymore, it's too dangerous.

“The Environment Agency (EA) have not listened to the concerns raised by people living in Mytholmroyd.

“The defences have failed miserably."

Businesses across the district have also spoke of their frustration with some admitting they have reached breaking point.

Mr Adams said he feels angry and devastated

Remzi Sasma owner of Rendezvous bistro in Hebden Bridge, said: “I’m shocked because it feels like the government don’t care about us.

“I’m really fed up especially after the lack of lessons learned from 2015.”

David Adams, 65, who owns Mytholmroyd-based David Paul barbers, on Burnley Road, said: “I’ve tried getting flood insurance but there’s been plenty of refusals because my business is in a high-flood-risk area.

“I’d have been better off if my business had gone up in flames – it’s getting to the point where I feel like giving up.

“My feelings are of anger that the flood defences haven’t been completed in time, and I’m devastated because I’m back to square one after the 2015 floods.”

“I know the defences aren’t complete, but they’ve been designed in a way which has actually kept the water from flowing into the rivers – I'd call that a failure.”

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker

Ms Villiers, who is the MP for Chipping Barnet, also admitted earlier this week "more needs to be done" to protect Yorkshire flood-ravaged communities, with the Calder Valley one of the worst-hit areas, a sentiment Calder Valley MP, Craig Whittaker agreed with.

He said: "There's been a £117 million hardcore investment for the whole of Calder Valley, which has been fully funded by the government.

"I wouldn't say the flood defences have failed because they're not completed yet.

"The flood defence project for Mytholmroyd has taken far too long - it's a mess.

"I can confirm the flood defence engineering work for Hebden Bridge is set to start this year.

"Once completed there are no guarantees with nature, especially around this region which is prone to flooding, but we'll continue to make sure businesses and homes are better protected."