Yorkshire needs funds for 'shovel-ready' flood schemes after Storm Christoph as extreme weather becomes the norm

Political leaders in Yorkshire are urging Ministers to fund their "shovel-ready" flood protection as they warned that previously "extreme" weather events are now happening more and more frequently.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 11:22 am
Updated Friday, 22nd January 2021, 11:26 am

West Yorkshire Combined Authority is asking the Government to contribute funding to the region’s flood risk management initiatives and to deliver on its commitment to hold a summit on flooding for the whole of Yorkshire.

The combined authority has worked with councils and the Environment Agency to develop 30 flood risk management schemes and a £15million natural flood management programme to protect towns and communities vulnerable to flooding in and around West Yorkshire.

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A canoeist paddles along a flooded West Yorkshire street as Storm Christoph brings heavy rains and flooding across England. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP) (Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

It is calling for £120 million of Government investment to support the delivery of these ambitious initiatives over the next six years, which will safeguard approximately 3,400 homes, 2,500 businesses and 4,600 existing jobs.

The call comes after Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed the Government is to launch a consultation on changes to the way funding is allocated for flood and coastal defences.

And Mr Eustice today said preparations are under way for further wet weather next week after homes were flooded following days of heavy rain caused by Storm Christoph.

The storm is now set to give way to colder winter weather this weekend as rainfall begins to ease, according to the Met Office.

But the Environment Secretary said authorities are monitoring river levels in Yorkshire and preparing for more rain expected next week.

He said flooded properties are a “real tragedy” for anyone affected, with around 70 homes deluged in the recent adverse weather.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It is incredibly disruptive when people have their homes flooded, but around 26,000 homes have been protected from the various flood defence assets we have had in place.

“We have got 600 people on the ground putting up temporary barriers, using pumps in areas of Manchester where there were particular flood challenges.

“We are particularly monitoring the situation in Yorkshire as the water moves through those river systems and, of course, preparing as well for next week where later next week more rain is expected.”

He said around £2.5 billion has been spent on flood defences over the last five years. But in the Commons this week he confirmed previous comments to The Yorkshire Post that the funding formula has to recognise the frequency of flooding.

Brigg and Goole Conservative MP Andrew Percy asked Mr Eustice to “comment on the adequacy of the flood defence funding rules for communities such as mine which are repeatedly now facing flooding issues or flood alerts and warnings”.

And Mr Eustice replied: “I can tell him that we will shortly be issuing a consultation on some changes to the flooding formula and one of the things we want to better reflect is frequently flooded communities so that greater weight is placed on that.”

In West Yorkshire, the combined authority has identified four "shovel ready" projects that could start straight away if funding were available.

They include Phase 1 of the Brighouse Flood Alleviation Scheme to better protect transport links and key diversionary routes and the Calderdale Reservoir Storage scheme to protect 180 existing businesses.

Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “We know from our own experiences and from events across the UK that flooding which was once considered exceptional is happening more frequently and severely. We need to accelerate our ongoing flood resilience work to protect our local communities against future extreme weather events.

“We are asking Government for funding to support the infrastructure the region needs to tackle climate change and support our economic recovery in a way that improves standards of living for all our communities, and safeguards homes, businesses, and jobs.

“We have identified four ‘shovel ready’ flood management projects that could commence as early as December 2022, if £21.6 million of Government funding was secured, and would create rapid and positive change to our local communities.”

Earlier this week, a Defra spokesperson said: “Flooding has a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods, but since 2015 the government has invested £496 million in flood defences in Yorkshire – more than any other region – better protecting more than 66,000 properties.

“And earlier this year we doubled our national investment in flood and coastal defences to a record £5.2 billion over six years which will protect hundreds of thousands more homes, and Yorkshire is set to receive its share of this funding.”