THE WETTEST December on record flooded 9,000 homes across Yorkshire, the Environment Secretary Liz Truss revealed, as questions have been raised on the Government’s commitment to flood defences across the region.
Outlining the true scale of winter flooding which left homes and businesses destroyed, Ms Truss said the Rivers Aire and Wharfe were a metre higher than they have ever been and fixing the Tadcaster Bridge over the River Wharfe is a “national priority”.
However, the scale of the havoc comes as the Government reiterated that a £190m flood defence that could have saved Leeds from flooding was ‘deemed unaffordable’.
The Prime Minister also refused to say whether the scheme would be revived when he
was challenged by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions.
As debates in Parliament on the winter floods continue, the Environment Agency defended their decision to open the Foss Barrier.
Raising the gate flooded 600 properties, but if they had not the sheer volume of water could have hit 1,000 homes, the agency’s deputy chief executive, David Rooke, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.
Labour’s York Central MP Rachael Maskell said she is continuing to push for answers as to why the barrier could not cope with the water levels.
The investment in flood defences in Yorkshire has been repeatedly in the spotlight in Westminster since Parliament returned on Tuesday, and a tense exchange of words between Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister David Cameron broke out over protection for Leeds.
Mr Corbyn said: “In 2011 a £190m flood defence project on the River Aire in Leeds was cancelled on cost grounds by the Government.
“The Government is still only committed to a scaled-down version of the project worth a fraction of its total cost, when the Prime Minister claimed that money was no object when it came to flood relief.
“Will he meet the Leeds MPs and Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds council in the near future? Will he guarantee the full scheme will go ahead to protect Leeds from future flooding?”
Mr Cameron said: “No flood defence schemes have been
cancelled since 2010. The investment in flood defences was £1.5bn in the last Labour government, £1.7bn in the government I led as a coalition government and will be over £2bn in this Parliament. It has gone up and up and up.”
Downing Street said the £190m 12-mile scheme along the River Aire proposed in 2011 was too costly, but added that a £33m investment for a Leeds city centre is still going ahead. Also, £280m will be spent in Yorkshire over the next six years.
Funds from the overseas aid budget could be used to assist flood victims, Conservative Philip Davies (Shipley) suggested.