High tide changes at nature reserve hit by floods

Looking south along Spurn Point
Looking south along Spurn Point
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A MAJOR clean-up operation is underway at a key nature reserve on the east coast after the tidal surge caused unprecedented damage, with dozens of sheep perishing.

Flood waters are starting to recede at the Spurn Nature Reserve, run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which has been dramatically altered by the impact of the freak event which struck on Thursday. A long stretch of the site will now wash over at high tide and the whole area remains closed to the public.

Damage to the main Humber floodbank at the trust’s Welwick Saltmarsh Nature Reserve at the mouth of the Humber estuary has also left it badly affected.

Rob Stoneman, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We are part of the coastal community and will be working closely with the Environment Agency and other partners to try and repair damage and protect against future flooding.”

A flock of 45 Hebridean sheep, which used to graze the grasslands on the Spurn peninsular, were moved to areas believed to be safe from flooding, but the force of the inland surge punched through the protective flood bank, inundating the area with water. Some 38 sheep were cut off before they could seek higher ground and were killed.

“We are devastated by the loss of part of our Hebridean herd,” Dr Stoneman said. “Naturally, animal welfare is of paramount importance to us and for this to happen is a huge tragedy for the animals and our staff and volunteers who looked after them. Our staff and volunteers did their very best to plan for the surge but none of us could have predicted the level of flooding the area suffered.”

The trust has been assisting its tenants at Spurn, Associated British Ports and the RNLI, to reconnect power supplies, while the safety of remaining sections of road are being assessed.

Jonathan Leadley, the trust’s director of development, said its buildings and their contents had suffered water damage, and extensive stretches of fencing, gates, visitor infrastructure and signage were destroyed.

“There is a colossal amount of debris and litter across the site which will take a substantial effort to dispose of,” he said.

“It is difficult to ascertain how soon before we can reopen Spurn to members of the public, but we will put updates on our website.”

Homeowners whose properties were damaged by the floods in the villages of South Ferriby, Burringham, Gunness and Keadby will be given £300 from an emergency fund to help manage the aftermath.

After calls from local MPs Andrew Percy and Martin Vickers, North Lincolnshire Council’s cabinet has set aside £100,000 to help around 250 households.

Coun Liz Redfern, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, said they would also be looking at providing loans to residents without flood insurance.

Those forced out of their homes - often for months while repairs are done - will get a rebate on their council tax.

Coun Redfern added: “These are really difficult times for many communities and I want them to know we are on their side.”

Brigg and Goole MP Mr Percy said: “There are people who had insurance but didn’t have flood cover and some didn’t realise and there were others who just couldn’t get flood insurance. It is such a confusing picture and we thought one of the most useful things the council could do was provide a bit of financial assistance to everyone who has flooded.”

In South Ferriby, where 124 houses were flooded by a torrent of water from the Humber, the clean-up is continuing.

Parish council chairman Roy Holloway said: “Surrounding communities are beginning to realise it has been pretty rough on South Ferriby and we ought to do a bit for them. We are not jumping up and down with joy but we think at least people are taking notice. This is definitely a boost.”

* Year seven, eight, nine and 10 pupils at Hayfield School in Auckley, Doncaster, will be off all week as severe damage to its roof caused by Thursday’s storm is repaired. Staff say classes could begin for year 11, 12 and 13 students tomorrow if repair work can be carried out.