'Government's trustworthiness on the line' over flood defence funds for South Yorkshire
Mr Jarvis and local council leaders have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to warn that the £16 million allocated for protection works falls far short of what is needed to tackle the growing threat of flooding and leaves places which were inundated last November “defenceless”.
The letter urges the Prime Minister to set a date for a long-awaited summit on preventing major floods like those that struck South Yorkshire last year.
Almost 1,000 homes and 564 businesses were affected by flooding, including in Fishlake and Bentley near Doncaster.
Mayor Jarvis said holding back on investment now was a false economy which will see us “paying far more in the long run.”
He added:“It’s been nine months since Boris Johnson agreed to hold the summit after severe floods hit South Yorkshire in November 2019.
“The government’s trustworthiness is on the line here. We understand that Covid has caused a lot of disruption, but the flood risk does not get any less just because we are preoccupied with other issues.”
The government increased funding for flood prevention in the 2020 budget – but Mayor Jarvis said it was “completely inadequate given the scale of the threat”, targeting areas affected by the 2007 floods, and not those devastated in last year’s flooding.
In February the Mayor and local authority leaders in liaison with the Environment Agency produced their own £270 million “nature-friendly” flood priority plan to cover the Rivers Don, Rother, Dearne and their tributaries.
It includes 25 separate schemes, several of which are led by the Environment Agency with others by one of the four South Yorkshire local authorities or partners like Internal Drainage Boards.
Barnsley council leader Sir Steve Houghton, one of the letter's signatories, said although they had not suffered the same scale of flooding, residents in two areas, Low Valley in Darfield and Lang Avenue in Burton Grange, were “constantly on their guard”.
He said the Government’s response had been a “huge disappointment” both for residents and the boost their proposals would have given the local economy.
He said: “Flooding schemes are ideal for post-Covid recovery because capital works employ a lot of people and feed supply chains.
"One way or another it fits the criteria for getting the economy moving - it would have killed two birds with one stone.”
Mr Jarvis said recent funding was allocated without consulting local authorities, despite the government’s pledges to support devolution.
He said: “We’ve got to do this in a way which puts local communities in the driving seat and reflects their priorities.
“We need to combine traditional engineering solutions like raising embankments and constructing pumping stations with more natural flood management measures including a major programme of tree planting, helping not just to protect local homes and businesses but to reduce our carbon footprint, create new habitats, green our cities, and improve access to nature and quality of life for people across the region.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “We understand the heartbreak, devastation and disruption faced by communities when flooding hits and we are committed to making the country as resilient to flooding as possible.
“This is why we have already built 59 new flood defences in Yorkshire since 2015, better protecting 13,200 homes, and nationally we have committed record levels of investment over the next six years to better protect 336,000 properties.
“We will continue to work with local leaders and communities across Yorkshire - including holding a roundtable discussion when it is appropriate to do so.”