THE worst flooding to hit parts of Yorkshire since the Second World War has prompted demands for the country to take a fresh approach to the way it prepares for extreme weather.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called for a cross-party consensus to ensure investment in flood resilience does not fall victim to politics while a council leader in a flood-hit part of Yorkshire said measures needed to extend beyond spending on major flood defence schemes.
The Prime Minister is expected to visit communities hit by flooding tomorrow after promising to “look again” at the Government’s approach to flooding which insurance experts estimate has so far cost £1.5 billion this winter.
Families and businesses across Yorkshire are counting the cost of the weekend’s devastation which was described as the worst flooding for 70 years by West Yorkshire Police as it declared a “major incident” and troops were mobilised to help.
In addition to the homes and businesses flooded, thousands more people experienced power cuts and travel disruption as roads were blocked.
Speaking after seeing some of the damage for herself in Leeds and York, Environment Secretary Liz Truss told The Yorkshire Post the Government was making the same support available for residents and business in Yorkshire that was offered to Cumbria after recent flooding.
She said: “It’s absolutely horrible to see people’s possessions, Christmas presents, children’s toys, in skips, lying in the street. To suffer this at Christmas time of all times is incredibly painful for the families involved.
“But I’ve also seen real community spirit, people helping friends and neighbours clear up and restore life back to normal.”
Ms Truss described the weekend rainfall and connected flooding as “something more than we have ever seen before”.
She continued: “Certainly in recent years we have seen a number of extreme weather events and certainly this winter has broken quite a few records in terms of river levels, in terms of rainfall and one of the things we’ve have kicked off is our resilience review looking at how do we better cope with these extreme weather patterns.”
Mr McDonnell said he was ready to agree levels spending on measures to adapt to climate change with Chancellor George Osborne to ensure investment continues which ever wins the next election.
“While we must take the measures needed to reduce the threat of climate change, we also need a cross party approach to securing a long term stable plan for investment in a programme that enables us to adapt to climate change.
“We have to recognise the potential scale of expenditure and stability of investment planning that is required,” he said.
Calderdale was among the worst hit areas over the weekend having last experienced major flooding just three years ago.
Council leader Tim Swift said: “It’s just obvious that the scale of flooding events over the last 10 years has been dramatically greater than anything we’ve had before and without getting into an argument even if you put the most generous interpretation on what the Government is doing the level of flood resilience funding hasn’t increased to match that.
“One of the big questions we will be asking is what the most effective response is. We’re pretty clear it needs to be about the whole system.
“There is still a case for major flood defence schemes but we also want to look at land management and drainage as well. Calderdale needs a comprehensive solution.”
A recent report from a committee of MPs raised concerns about the Government ability to meet its flood defence commitments as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs cuts its day to day budget by 15 oer cent.
They also pointed out that the Government’s flood defence plans depend on securing £600 million of outside contributions and only £250 million has been found so far.