YP Comment: Ebb and flow of flooding anger one year on

One year after the floods, Tadcasdter is still a town split in half as work continues to build a new river crossing.
One year after the floods, Tadcasdter is still a town split in half as work continues to build a new river crossing.
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IT’S a measure of the destructive power of the Boxing Day floods 12 months ago that there are still families and businesses counting the cost of the devastation while engineers continue to repair road bridges in Tadcaster and Elland which were washed away.

The Yorkshire Post made no apology at the time for holding David Cameron and his government to account for their complacent response which they hoped would be masked by a succession of mealy-mouthed PR visits. Unlike the more acquiescent Tory MPs from this region, Ministers simply did not grasp the scale of the crisis which was compounded by decades of under-investment in the region’s flood defences.

And while Theresa May’s ministers have certainly been more appreciative of the concerns of stricken communities, the plain fact of the matter is that an unseasonably dry autumn has lessened the likelihood of floods this winter – and this is not a sustainable way to protect vulnerable cities, towns and villages.

That said, work is now underway on the first phase of a major new scheme for Leeds which was first proposed after the 2007 floods while the new strategy being forged for the Calder Valley – an area flooded on countless occasions since 2012 – shows the importance of looking at river catchment areas in their entirety when considering preventative schemes. If the flow of water can be better controlled thanks to the more pragmatic use of reservoirs, homes downstream might be spared.

Yet, for many, promises of affordable insurance remain just that – promises. Take the medical centre in Tadcaster. It’s insurance premium was £3,500. Now doctors are being quoted £38,500 – provided they pay the first £100,000 of any damage. Examples like this are legion and the businesses concerned facing a terrible predicament – compromising their viability by paying these unsustainable charges or hoping for the best. For some smaller organisations in Leeds and Hebden Bridge, the latter is the only option.

And while the Flood Re scheme has made it possible for homeowners to obtain more affordable cover, the Government finds itself duty-bound to do more to assist small businesses. Dr Thérèse Coffey, the Environment Minister, has pledged to keep the matter under review. She needs to do better than this. At the very least she should be challenging the insurance industry to look again at the issue and, in return, changing the planning rules so the Environment Agency has the right to veto any new homes and businesses earmarked for land that it deems to be at undue risk of flooding.

Unless there’s a sea-change in attitudes, backed up with a more equitable distribution of Environment Agency funds after a disproportionate amount was previously spent in the Home Counties and Thames Valley at the expense of this region, flooding victims will be even less forgiving of Ministers – and any dereliction of duty – when they’re next forced to evacuate their property.

Queen’s message of reassurance

THE Queen’s deep faith and steadfast sense of duty means she would not have missed Sandringham’s traditional Christmas service without good reason – and we wish Her Majesty well as she recovers from the heavy cold which has laid low so many of her loyal subjects.

Our thoughts are also with the Royal family after the announcement that Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and her husband Mike had lost their unborn child, a tragic note on which to end 2016.

A tumultuous year which has been unfathomable to many, even those great occasions of joy, like the world-beating example set Team GB’s all-conquering Olympians and Paralympians in Rio, left ordinary people feeling humble in comparison. Yet, as the Queen noted in a sensitively-composed festive address pre-recorded before illness struck, the often unheralded work of volunteers and carers still produces “extraordinary” results and that communities should not under-estimate their collective power to make a difference.

Citing Mother Teresa’s example, Her Majesty said: “Even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”

Wise words in keeping with Her Majesty’s values, they also show the enduring importance of those charities and voluntary organisations which are the bedrock of Britain. And, for inspiration, they have no finer example than the Queen whose example continues to offer so much hope and reassurance to so many in an uncertain world. THE Queen’s deep faith and steadfast sense of duty means she would not have missed Sandringham’s traditional Christmas service without good reason – and we wish Her Majesty well as she recovers from the heavy cold which has laid low so many of her loyal subjects.

Our thoughts are also with the Royal family after the announcement that Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and her husband Mike had lost their unborn child, a tragic note on which to end 2016.

A tumultuous year which has been unfathomable to many, even those great occasions of joy, like the world-beating example set Team GB’s all-conquering Olympians and Paralympians in Rio, left ordinary people feeling humble in comparison. Yet, as the Queen noted in a sensitively-composed festive address pre-recorded before illness struck, the often unheralded work of volunteers and carers still produces “extraordinary” results and that communities should not under-estimate their collective power to make a difference.

Citing Mother Teresa’s example, Her Majesty said: “Even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”

Wise words in keeping with Her Majesty’s values, they also show the enduring importance of those charities and voluntary organisations which are the bedrock of Britain. And, for inspiration, they have no finer example than the Queen whose example continues to offer so much hope and reassurance to so many in an uncertain world.