Calderdale 'worst hit place in the country for school flooding', report finds

The UK is not adequately prepared for the increasing risk posed by flooding as the climate changes – with Yorkshire already suffering hits to the local economy and education in recent years, new research by think-tank Bright Blue has suggested.

The think-tank for liberal conservatism has analysed flooding impacts across the country since 2007 by using an artificial intelligence tool to scan almost 8,000 newspaper articles about flooding.

The report has highlighted how schools in Calderdale have been repeatedly closed due to flooding in recent years, how the lack of routine drain maintenance contributed to flooding in York and noted the economic impact to businesses in Tadcaster by the town’s flooding-related bridge collapse in 2015.

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It found nationally that there have been at least 51 flash flood events in major urban areas since 2007, while 15 hospitals and 68 schools have also been affected.

Devastating flooding hit the town of Mytholmroyd on December 26, 2015 - causing damage to local schools that took almost a year to fix (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The report highlights that two schools in Calderdale - Burnley Road and Scout Road Academies in Mytholmroyd - were closed for around 10 months after the Boxing Day floods of 2015, while two other schools were badly damaged by flooding in 2020. One of them, Todmorden Primary School, has reportedly been affected by flooding six times since 2017.

It said Calderdale appeared to be "the most seriously affected part of the country within the last decade" for the issue of schools flooding.

The report also highlights that in 2007, 700 people were evacuated from near Ulley Reservoir in South Yorkshire, while the town of Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire had to be evacuated after the dam holding back Toddbrook Reservoir was damaged.

It says with climate change due to bring about more extreme weather, the Government should give local councils greater resources to help prevent damage to infrastructure and public services.

Helen Jackson, Associate Fellow at Bright Blue and report author, said: “The disruption caused by Storm Arwen highlights the need to make our infrastructure resilient to extreme weather, and be more preventative and less reactive.

“Many towns and cities in the UK are seeing repeat episodes of flash flooding affecting households, businesses and transport systems.

“We need to recognise this trend and do much more to ensure our urban drainage and sewer systems can cope with heavy rainfall as the climate changes. This should include limiting the spread of impermeable surfaces in our cities and ensuring basic measures like drain cleaning are not overlooked.

“The recent furore over sewage spills highlighted the importance of adequate drainage and sewerage systems for environmental quality – but this is not just an environmental issue, it is a public safety issue.”

MP backs calls for action

The findings from Bright Blue and the 24 recommendations made by the think-tank on mitigation strategies have been welcomed by Tory MP Jonathan Djanogly.

He said: “There are few issues other than flooding that can so dramatically provide a negative impact to people’s homes and lives. This issue urgently needs to be addressed.

“I welcome the report and recommendations; not least to better manage research and information concerning flood risk and impacts as well as better support for urban drainage.”

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