More people in Yorkshire now protected from flooding since Boxing Day floods, Environment Secretary says

More people in Yorkshire are now protected from flooding than they were five years ago, the Environment Secretary has said, as he said the region had benefited from more flood investment than any other part of the country.

Saturday, 26th December 2020, 5:45 am

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post five years on from the devastating Boxing Day floods in Leeds George Eustice said he hoped Yorkshire would not be plagued by floods this winter like it was last year and in previous seasons.

He said: “I very much hope that I won’t have to come to Yorkshire wearing wellie boots, because it means that there might be a problem.”

But he said he did wish to visit the region after the new year to meet with local leaders and find new solutions to managing flood risk.

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File photo dated February 25, 2020, of flooding in the town of Snaith in East Yorkshire after the River Aire burst its banks. Photo: PA

And ahead of a winter predicted to be wetter than normal in the UK. and the threat of coronavirus, Mr Eustice said: “We’ve taken a very clear view right away throughout this, that we need to maintain the capacity of the Environment Agency to do that number one role, which is flood response during the winter, and not to undermine their capacity to do that by diverting them to other efforts.”

But he admitted he was concerned about the double threat, and said he had had “a number of meetings with the Environment Agency over the last few months to check that they are ready for whatever the winter would throw at us.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it had 250 high volume pumps available and 6,500 trained staff across the country, including 314 trained flood support officers.

There were also 25 miles of temporary flood barriers ready to be used, 1,500 military personnel trained to support flood response, and 700 protection schemes had been completed since 2015.

Although there was still much work to do, Mr Eustice said he was convinced more people in Yorkshire now were protected from flood waters than in 2015.

“Since 2015, Yorkshire has had more investment than any other area and it’s just shy of £500m,” he said. “That included £100m on quite a big scheme in Leeds [...] and the improvements that were made to the capacity of the Foss Barrier has been quite a game changer in York.

“It’s not to say there are not still challenges there, but it’s certainly been a big factor in York as part of a package of measures.”

He also pointed towards schemes in Calderdale, in Mytholmroyd, and Hebden Bridge.

“So these things do take time, but we have - since 2015 - better protected around 66,000 properties in Yorkshire.”

He said he recognised that came as “cold comfort” to those who continued to suffer flooding, but he said new plans to be set out in coming months would help people further.