York flood barrier requires urgent review warns City MP

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and York Labour MP Rachael Maskell lift sandbags in York on New Year's Eve
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and York Labour MP Rachael Maskell lift sandbags in York on New Year's Eve
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A VITAL flood defence system protecting thousands of homes is still operating on rainfall estimates from the 1980s and capacity needs to be urgently reviewed, an MP has said.

The Foss Barrier in York was unable to cope with the levels of water coming down the River Foss over the Christmas period, and after the Environment Agency decided to lift the gate 600 homes were flooded causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The flood gate at the joining of the River Ouse and Foss in York.  Picture: Ross Parry Agency

The flood gate at the joining of the River Ouse and Foss in York. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

However questions are being asked today on whether it’s time to review the Foss Barrier pumps, which were set to cope water levels based on information available in 1987, and not the extreme torrent of rain that fell in December.

Rachel Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, said: “Successive reports showed that the capacity of the pumps at the barrier could not cope with a large volume of water. York is prone to flooding, this happens nearly every year, and it is clear that the problem is getting more severe because of climate change.

“The volume of water was at a higher capacity than what the pumps could deal with at about 35 tons per second, and they can deal with 30.4 a second, so there was a net gain of water, and the water just surged through the floor of the control room.”

She said that there has been a suggestion that the pumps could be upgraded to deal with 50 tons of water per second, but that would involve a signifcant investment.

Members of a Mountain Rescue team paddle along Huntington Road in York on December 27, after the River Foss and Ouse burst their banks.

Members of a Mountain Rescue team paddle along Huntington Road in York on December 27, after the River Foss and Ouse burst their banks.

Her comments come as Kerry McCarthy, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, asked the Government to pay more attention to climate change reports, and particularly the work of the Committee on Climate Change which she said issued warnings on the country’s preparedness.

They have previously reported how levels of investment in flood defences will not keep pace with the increasing risks of flooding due to global warming.

A report by the City of York Council dating back to 2011 stated that the greatest risk of flooding from the River Foss to the city of York is ‘a direct result of the capacity of the pump at the Foss barrier being exceeded’. This was based on information from the Environment Agency provided in 2004.

It was also known by the council that during a one in 100-year flood affecting both the Ouse and Foss catchments, ‘the capacity of the pumps is predicted to be exceeded’.

The Government has so far pledged £13m to repair the Foss barrier, and the Environment Agency (EA) has said they want to use Government recovery money ‘so that it is more resilient’.

However the EA were unable to provide information on whether the capacity of the pumps is under review.

They commented that ‘further works will be needed’ and ‘we will advise local communities what the plan is for that in due course.’