MP says climate change means flood response must improve

Boxing day flood in Hebden Bridge. Albert Street and New Road under water.
Boxing day flood in Hebden Bridge. Albert Street and New Road under water.

The MP heading a select committee investigation into the recent floods which devastated Yorkshire and other parts of the country said communities needed “certainty” that it would not happen again.

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, was in Leeds yesterday to hear from politicians, businesses, members of the community and others from across Yorkshire to hear their experiences and views on what can be done as part of its current review of Government policy and action on flooding.

MP Mary Creagh talking to YWNG reporter Don Mort today.

MP Mary Creagh talking to YWNG reporter Don Mort today.

The watchdog is due to report shortly and it is considering how Government departments and public bodies can better co-operate and what is required from Government to ensure the UK is equipped to face future floods.

Ms Creagh, the MP for Wakefield said: “With climate change increasing extreme rainfall, we’re going to have to get better at dealing with and preventing flooding.”

Speaking after the meeting she said the committee, which is due to publish its report in the coming weeks, said there was a real concern that communities could become “no-go areas”.

“Some people were flooded out of their homes and out of their businesses as well.

“They do not want their communities to become no-go areas they do not want to see businesses moving out or not coming back there.

“What flood affected communities need is certainty and comfort that this is not going to happen again,” she added.

The Boxing Day floods affected a swathe of communities including parts of York, Leeds, the Calder Valley, Tadcaster and a number of other areas across the county. Ms Creagh said considerations included whether information on the ground about what help was needed where was adequately shared when the floods hit and whether traditional defences were still the best way to protect communities.

Among those attending yesterday’s audit committee at Leeds Civic Hall was Paola Sakai, research fellow at the University of Leeds, who has produced a report looking at the economic impact on the Calder Valley, which put the cost to businesses in the area at £47m and the wider cost at £170m.

Dr Sakai, who spoke at the hearing, said: “I mentioned that businesses are very concerned that they will not be able to get insurance again.”

She said traders are faced with a difficult decisions including whether to carry on and wait for the next incident or: “shall I give up my business now?”

John Benson, managing director of A Taylor & Son, fabrication engineers, which has four sites in Leeds, including one at Kirkstall, which was badly affected by the Boxing Day floods and only became fully operational at the end of March, also attended the meeting. He said ensuring firms could get sensible insurance cover was a major issue for firms.

He added that considered research was needed to look at the causes of the flooding, rather than a snap decision.

York was also badly hit and yesterday York Council announced the independent chair and panel members who will lead on the inquiry into the recent flooding in York.

The inquiry will look at how the city coped with the recent floods and issues such as the information given to residents, the response of key organisations and the failure of the Foss Barrier on Boxing Day. Angharad Davies, a self-employed barrister, will chair the inquiry.