Ministers are being urged to release as much funding as possible to help communities devastated by violent flash floods in the Yorkshire Dales.
The widespread scale of the destruction is now becoming clear. Families have been displaced from flooded homes, farmers’ livestock and fodder has been lost, while businesses have been left cut off at the height of the tourism season by damaged roads and downed bridges.
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak said he was already making the case for public money to help affected families and businesses overcome the financial consequences, as calls were made for a Whitehall response akin to the financial aid that followed the 2015 floods in Cumbria.
Parts of Wensleydale, Arkengarthdale and Swaledale have suffered major damage, and Mr Sunak spent much of yesterday meeting those affected, including one farmer who had 5ft of water in his house, had lost hay bales, seen his farm’s dry stone walls collapse and had lost his dog to the flood water.
The MP told The Yorkshire Post: “The damage has been extraordinary. The community, families, businesses, farmers have just been absolutely devastated. It’s shocking to see.”
He said he was “humbled” by the response of “resilient” locals and thanked the emergency services, Army personnel and councils for their responses as he vowed to press for funds.
“I’m working as hard as I can to get as much support as I can to try to help rebuild people’s lives,” he said.
“There are existing funds and schemes to respond to things like this, and I’m having conversations, pushing very hard, with relevant ministers to find out what they are and which are applicable.”
Adam Bedford, regional director of the National Farmers’ Union, also visited flood-hit areas and said government assistance will “definitely” be needed.
“This is about business resilience, how we get farm businesses to re-open and infrastructure repairs. Livestock’s been lost, walls damaged - there’s going to need to be something to address that.”
The Country Land and Business Association said it had written to Farming Minister George Eustice urging him to commit to action to support those affected.
Dorothy Fairburn, northern director of the landowners’ group said: “It is vital that Government acts quickly to do all it can to ease this distress and help rural businesses get back on track as soon as possible.”
Advice for affected farmers
Affected farmers are being urged to register with the National Farmers’ Union for recovery advice and help.
Regional director Adam Bedford said: “Dales farmers are incredibly resilient, but they will need help to deal with the immediate and longer term complex impacts of this extreme weather event.”
Farmers can call the union’s CallFirst service on 0370 845 8458 to register and be kept informed of available support.
A Defra spokeswoman said the Environment Agency was working to support affected communities and advised farmers who will struggle to meet the conditions of farm payment schemes to contact the Rural Payments Agency.