Agency urged to fix flaw in Hull’s flood defences

A car lies in a dyke in Sluice Road, South Ferriby following a tidal surge.  Picture by Bruce Rollinson
A car lies in a dyke in Sluice Road, South Ferriby following a tidal surge. Picture by Bruce Rollinson
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THE Environment Agency is being urged to speed up work to raise a weak point in flood defences singled out as responsible for the majority of the flooding to 260 homes and businesses in a Yorkshire city last month.

Investigations by Hull Council have revealed that most of the flooding during last month’s tidal surge “was caused by the sheer quantity of water” flowing over Riverside Quay – a low point in the city’s defences – and through Albert Dock, where the lockgates were open, into surrounding streets.

It comes as the Prime Minister called for the use of premium rate telephone helplines for flooding victims to be ended “as quickly as possible”.

Householders are having to pay up to 41p a minute to call the 0845 number, which was set up by the Environment Agency, with the money raised going to a private firm.

The report into the impact of the tidal surge in Hull, which is being discussed by councillors today, says staff tried to close the lockgates on Albert Dock using a “reverse head restraint system”.

The system had been installed by the Environment Agency for use in extreme events.

But, the report says, they were unable to apply the vertical bolt locking system “and due to fears that the lock gates would be grossly distorted the reverse head restraint system was removed”.

However it claims that even if the lockgates were closed, the height of the tide – the highest for 60 years – was such that the extent of flooding “would have been equally significant”.

The EA is looking at improving flood defences as part of the Humber Risk Management Strategy, but among nine recommendations, the report says the work needs to be speeded up, with raising defences in the Albert Dock area “the highest priority”.

Last week the agency installed half-tonne sandbags along a 1,000-yard stretch of Riverside Quay as a temporary solution.

Coun Martin Mancey, who represents Myton ward, said: “As ward councillors we are pressing for permanent improvements in the flood defences along this stretch. The tidal surge shows how vulnerable we are in this area.”

Coun Mancey said there had not been a proper agreement at the time between the Environment Agency and Associated British Ports over the system’s operation.

He said: “It’s unfortunate that these arrangements hadn’t been fully put in place before a flooding event highlighted how important they were. Nevertheless the flooding would have happened anyway.”

Meanwhile the agency said yesterday they were considering phasing out the Floodline phone number, which costs 10.5p a minute from landlines and 41p from mobiles. David Rooke, director of flood and coastal risk management, said because people had grown used to the 0845 number it would be better to do it in the summer.

The agency About Hull said: “We are looking to improve flood defences across on both north and south sides of the Humber estuary as part of the Humber flood risk management strategy. We are looking to work with local authority and industry partners to join forces so that we can achieve this.

“A reverse head restraint system is in place for the lock gates at Albert Dock and this now fully operational. While it could not operate for technical reasons on December 5, it would not have made a difference even if it had operated, because of the significant tidal surge conditions at the time.

“Work is now complete to temporarily raise the height of a low-spot, using a line of large sand and gravel-filled bags ahead of any permanent solution which will take top priority in the order of works to be constructed as part of the strategy recommendations.”

Four flood warnings last night remained in place in Yorkshire, including two in Scarborough, on the Spa and Foreshore Road, and Bridlington Harbour, with more bad weather set to sweep the country tonight and tomorrow.