Apology for failure of temporary flood defences that saw Yorkshire village engulfed in water

Failing temporary defences in Mytholmroyd during the February 2020 flood saw some properties flooding two hours earlier than if they had held.

Calderdale Flood Recovery and Resilience Programme Board heard scheme partners apologise for temporary flood defences that had failed, withthe time differential meaning people had less time to react to what was happening.

The board was considering reports into the completion of the scheme as a whole and the February 2020 flooding which engulfed the village again.

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Jenny Cooke, from the Enviornment Agency, said the report into the one-in-75-years flooding examined what happened, what would have happened if the temporary defences had performed and what would have happened if the scheme had been complete at that point.

Flooding in Mytholmroyd (Pic credit: SWNS)

In February 2020 the defences had failed at two points, opposite Burnley Road Academy and opposite Longfellow Court, due to both design and installation.

The report concluded if the temporary defences had worked, flooding would still have occurred to the same level and depth, but their failure saw some properties flooding two hours earlier than if the temporary defences had acted as intended, she said.

“It is important to say the deficiencies in those defences were below the standard we would aim to work for and we apologise for that. We recognise the distress that would have caused,” she said.

If the scheme had been fully completed at that point – bar some snagging it was completed late last year – it was likely flood water would have been contained within the new defences, possibly with some overtopping, said Ms Cooke.

Coun Scott Patient, who lives in the village’s flood area just yards from where one of the breaches happened and is a Flood Warden, said the two-hour gap was “a game changer” for some people.

He remembered an emotionally fraught meeting afterwards where partners were there to respond to people who were very angry.

Coun Jane Scullion asked why the siren had not sounded and was told it was a secondary system for duty managers although importance to the community in terms of warning time was appreciated.

Paul Swales, lood and coastal risk management senior advisor for the Environment Agency, said in respect of the “two hour gap” the agency would look at potential claims for financial loss.

Generally, it was incredible to complete a scheme of this size and scale in just five years post-2015, with challenges which included burst water mains, traffic clolsures and the COVID-19 pandemic, he said .

The council’s chief executive, Robin Tuddenham, said it was entirely understandable there was a lot of distress in February 2020 .

He said the report into the whole scheme showed how risk was mitigated but measures could not eliminate it completely.