YP Comment: Flood defences need overhaul - MPs call for ‘radical’ change

MPs want an overhaul of our flood defences. (picture: PA).
MPs want an overhaul of our flood defences. (picture: PA).
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IT is now more than 10 months since last year’s devastating Boxing Day floods which left swathes of Yorkshire submerged and still politicians cannot agree on what needs to be done to bolster our flood defences.

The Calder Valley was among the areas worst affected and last month the Environment Agency’s Calderdale Flood Action Plan was unveiled which included short term measures to protect 1,600 homes and plans to repair damaged roads and bridges.

Now, a group of MPs are calling for the Environment Agency to be overhauled in a bid to protect vulnerable communities from the rising flood risk - with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s Future Flood Prevention report proposing a “radical” overhaul of the way flooding is tackled.

The select committee proposes a new National Floods Commissioner responsible for flood management in England, along with the creation of Regional Flood and Coastal Boards and an English Rivers and Coastal Authority. These plans are an alternative to the delayed Flood Resilience Review which, when it was finally published in September, was little more than a damp squib.

There can be little doubt that a change to our flooding strategy is required and there is a case for saying that flood defence and water management has become too big for the Environment Agency to handle on its own and should become the sole focus of a new dedicated body. However, we cannot simply replace one bureaucratic organisation with another.

There are other key considerations that need to be addressed, too. Local knowledge and expertise must be better harnessed and we need consistent funding with a firm commitment to long-term investment.

Until then we will only have half measures and in the meantime the clock keeps ticking with winter fast approaching.

Building the future

We know that Leeds is one of the UK’s fastest growing cities and now a new report says a whopping £13bn of construction work is coming to the City Region over the next three years.

The study, carried out by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), says new housing developments and high-profile building projects are at the heart of this huge investment.

This is not only a tremendous fillip for Leeds it is a boost, too, for surrounding towns like Castleford and Wakefield, as well as areas such as Calderdale and Kirklees, which will benefit from the ripple effect of this massive construction drive.

It is also a vote of confidence, at a time of uncertainty surrounding Brexit and concern over the faltering pound, in Yorkshire’s economy and the skills and talent we have in abundance. The challenge now is to harness this.

The CITB predicts we will need an extra 13,000 workers, bringing the region’s construction workforce to 120,000. On top of that more than 2,000 bricklayers and 3,000 painters and decorators will be required – jobs that can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Leeds College of Building is to be applauded for acting swiftly and working closely with construction firms to look at how best to meet this demand. For make no mistake, this is a huge opportunity for the region’s economy to continue to flourish. It is a sign, too, that Leeds is fulfilling its potential as a genuine Northern Powerhouse, which is good news not only for the city but the whole of Yorkshire.

York Oscar-winner launches business

It’s been a pretty good year for Serena Armitage. In February the Yorkshire-born filmmaker won an Oscar for her film Stutterer and now she is launching her own production company.

Red Breast Productions, which Armitage has set up following a grant from the British Film Institute (BFI), will be based in York. Her aim, she says, is to develop the best new Yorkshire talent and collaborate with filmmakers across the region.

It’s an indicator of just how much the film industry has been transformed in Yorkshire during the past few years that somebody of Armitage’s pedigree wants to stay here. Credit must go to Screen Yorkshire whose new Church Fenton studios, near Selby, have proved a huge success. The lavish ITV drama Victoria is among several high-profile productions already filmed there with others queuing up to follow.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to head off to Hollywood or London to make it in the film business.