TALK about a damp squib – the only phrase which does justice to the Government’s long-awaited, much-delayed and over-hyped National Flood Resilience Review which has been published eight months after parts of Leeds were left in ruins.
Far from being a water-tight strategy to protect vulnerable properties in the coming months, and years, this report is another betrayal of all those home and business owners already let down by a torrent of broken promises. Yes, £12.5m – a drop in the proverbial ocean – is being spent on acquiring some new temporary defences for nationwide use but it’s hardly the resilient plan promised for the winter.
There’s no acknowledgement that the Government was slow to respond to the scale of the damage across Yorkshire. Don’t forget, the people of Tadcaster and Elland had to beg for temporary bridges.
There’s little acceptance of the fact that many people can still not obtain affordable insurance despite assurances to the contrary.
There’s also no understanding, amid platitudes like “it is appropriate to reconsider our approaches to assessing flood risk”, that inadequate defences in cities like Leeds will make it harder to attract investors.
And then there’s the politics. Even though the Government has maintained – repeatedly – that there is no North-South divide over funding, residents here have every right to feel snubbed. For, while coalition Ministers were delaying a scheme in Leeds drawn up after the 2007 floods, they were pressing ahead with a comparable scheme – in terms of cost – for the Thames Valley and Home Counties. And, while Defra officials have spent the past summer trying to source some temporary barriers for storage at unspecified locations, they have been finalising new plans – signed off on Tuesday this week – for the town of Marlow which is just upstream of Maidenhead where the local MP just happens to be one Theresa May, the new Prime Minister.
After eight properties were flooded in 2012, 22 in 2013 and 23 most recently in 2014, this picturesque Thames town is to get a new alleviation scheme which will sit uneasily with Yorkshire’s forgotten victims. If Andrea Leadsom, the new Environment Secretary, thinks she can wash her hands of responsibility because the floods did not happen on her watch, she’d better think again.
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