Devastated North Yorkshire communities won't get new flooding support from Government

Communities left devastated by last July’s unprecedented floods in the Yorkshire Dales have been told they experienced the wrong 'type' of flooding to qualify for funding the government has given to flood-hit villages on the opposite side of Yorkshire.

The coalition of bodies behind the ongoing recovery efforts in Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Wensleydale wrote to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government last month pressing for the £300,000 made available to flooded areas, such as villages in South Yorkshire, which were inundated in November.

The letter, signed by the Two Ridings Community Foundation and Richmondshire District Council, was also supported by North Yorkshire County Council, the National Farmers Union and the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.

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It stated areas of the northern Dales, such as the 20sq km around Reeth which saw 2,156 million litres – which could fill over 800 Olympic swimming pools – fall in five hours on July 30, had experienced equally devastating flooding as their southerly neighbours in November and should be included in the government’s Property Flood Resilience Recovery Support Scheme.

A collapsed bridge following heavy rainfall in Grinton Moors, in North Yorkshire, last summer. Credit: SWNS

The letter stated: “The floods in this region were devastating, with extreme levels of flash flooding on 30th July 2019. More than 300 homes, 30 businesses and 50 farms were flooded and many of these people and their communities are still struggling to recover from this devastation.

“Although roads and bridges are being repaired, and dry stone walls are starting to be rebuilt, what is less evident is the ongoing impact on people’s lives as they struggle to cope with the financial and emotional impact.”

The letter added many of those affected were on low wages, low fixed pension incomes, and are tenant hill farmers or have small businesses, and have little financial resilience.

It added: “As an area that relies on farming and tourism with much of the employment typified by low wages, and many people having to work several part time jobs to make ends meet, this lack of financial resilience is likely to have long term impacts.”

The coalition called on the Government to match fund donations raised by the foundation to support people, businesses and farms experiencing ongoing financial hardship as a result of the floods.

The letter stated: “Although we have raised nearly £300,000 to support financial hardship our current projections suggest that we will run out of available funds by February with significant unmet need.

“So far we have helped 138 homes, 7 businesses, 5 parish councils and 27 farms but know that financial hardship will continue as a result of the time taken for people to get back on their feet.

“A significant number of householders and small business owners have been unable to access flood insurance as their properties have been flooded before and they were unable to benefit from the Flood Re scheme for various reasons.”

In response, junior minister Rebecca Pow said government recovery schemes are only usually deployed exceptionally, following severe weather events which have significant impacts across multiple authorities.

She said in the case of the South Yorkshire and north Midlands November flooding, over 2,000 properties were flooded or made unlivable. Prior to this Government last deployed the Property Flood Resilience part of its recovery package following the 2015/15 flooding in the north of England.

Ms Pow said in areas where there is localised flooding, “we normally expect that the local authorities have well established contingency arrangements in place such as funding from existing budgets and the resources to respond and support local communities”.

She added: “We appreciate that this would come as disappointing news, but we would not be able to extend this funding to flooding outside of this.

“There is no evidence of a systemic problem for businesses at high flood risk accessing insurance. However, it is clearly a problem for some, particularly in communities that have recently been flooded. We are working with the insurance industry and the wider commercial sector to help businesses become more resilient to flooding, preventing water entering and speeding recovery when it does.”

While some Richmondshire councillors said they understood the government funding was designed for larger-scale events, others said the severity of the flooding in the Dales had made the grants essential.

Independent councillor Stuart Parsons questioned whether the Richmond constituency had not received the funding as it was a safe Tory seat, where Labour constituencies in South Yorkshire had been handed the funding just weeks before the election.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council heard claims that Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, who was chief secretary to the Treasury when the letter was written, had failed to secure the funds to help his constituency recover.

The authority’s leader Councillor Carl Les dismissed claims that Mr Sunak had in any way failed his residents.

He said: “I was on the ground with Rishi and as the leader of the council I was satisfied with what my MP of Richmond Yorkshire was doing to actually get that financial assistance there.”