Council to discuss criticisms over flood response

COUNCILLORS are to discuss how authorities can improve their response to future floods following criticisms that more could have been done in the summer’s floods in the Calder valley around Hebden Bridge.

A Calderdale Council panel has taken evidence from the public, businesses, council officers and the Environment Agency in the wake of floods in June and July.

The panel is meeting again on Thursday, September 6.

A report to the meeting says that members of the public have complained that flood warning systems were “inadequate”.

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It adds: “The Walsden siren failed, although it had been tested as recently as June 6. There were also concerns that there were no warning trigger levels regarding canals.”

Previous meetings between residents and council officials have heard concerns raised about the perceived lack of physical links between the river and canal systems in the valley, which meant that water overflowing from the canal could not reach the river.

Concerns have also been raised about low kerbs on valley hillsides which meant water run-off entered properties on bends in the road.

The report said the “general consensus” locally was that the public, council and other agencies had worked well together to respond to the flooding “although some felt that responses could have been swifter”.

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Some residents have already called for services and response plans to be “more localised”.

“Other agencies could also do more to prevent flood risk,” according to the council report.

“An example was given of congested water channels under the railway at Walsden. In the past, these had been cleared by college students under the auspices of Todmorden Town Council. The land is now the property of Network Rail and it is down to them to maintain the channels.”

The long-term effect on businesses, particularly in Hebden Bridge, which relies on tourism, will also be discussed at next week’s meeting.

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Around 70 per cent of businesses in the town are trading again but work is going on with tourism chiefs to raise the profile of the town.

The Environment Agency has already identified 95 pieces of remedial work to reduce future flood risk. It is aiming to have 70 per cent of these completed by the end of this month.

The council report concludes: “It is vitally important that, as we move forward, all stakeholders work together. The work of the National Flood Forum in areas was praised, and requests were made that residents are represented on the Joint Flood Study Group.”

The scrutiny panel is expected to make a range of recommendations to the council’s cabinet committee and other agencies.