Flood-hit Yorkshire borough should be given special status to help communities recover, Environment Secretary George Eustice is warned

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Civic leaders in a Yorkshire borough which has been battered by repeated floods in the last decade have called for Ministers to grant the area special status as it struggles to recover from Storm Ciara amid the impact of austerity cuts.

The leader of Calderdale Council says the authority has been "overwhelmed" by the challenges involved in responding to the weekend's storm, which saw 600 homes and nearly as many businesses flooded in the Calder Valley.

The flooding aftermath in Hebden Bridge after Storm Ciara. Picture by Simon Hulme

The flooding aftermath in Hebden Bridge after Storm Ciara. Picture by Simon Hulme

In a letter to newly-appointed Environment Secretary George Eustice and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Labour council leader Tim Swift said the authority was able to set aside £3m from its revenue budget to help get communities back on their feet after the Boxing Day floods of 2015.

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But he said: "Now, four years on, we find ourselves, a Metropolitan Council which has endured a 40 per cent loss of revenue funding, once again overwhelmed.

Calderdale council leader Tim Swift. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Calderdale council leader Tim Swift. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

"This is despite deploying all available resources, alongside our partners, and an outstanding response from residents and flood wardens."

He urged the Government to grant Calderdale urgent assistance by recognising it as a 'Tier 1' authority getting extra funding support because it is one of a small number of areas of the country at "sustained risk" of flooding.

It is understood that this new status would be similar to that given to the Corporation of London authority because of the heightened terror threat in the City of London.

In his letter, Coun Swift has also called £6m in funding to be handed to the borough as part of a resilience grant and business rate waiver scheme, matching what was made available in 2015.

He wrote: "This made a crucial difference in supporting our communities at that time and enabled a strong recovery from that flood. We believe the implementation of the previous scheme has reduced the number of properties affected."

The council leader's third request was a "one-off infrastructure recovery fund" to help pay for repairs to damaged roads and bridges. An assessment of the damage to the borough is taking place in the coming days but the 2015 floods caused £25m of damage.

He wrote in his letter that the Calder Valley's main towns were inundated on a scale comparable with the 2012 and Boxing Day 2015 floods.

"Whilst the impacts of the storm have been experienced across a large area, the severity of the flooding in Calderdale has been greater than initial weather and river forecasts indicated.

"I know from experience of recent floods that the effects of this will be wide-ranging, and will include physical damage to infrastructure, practical disruption for residents and businesses, and a longer term impact on mental health and emotional well-being."

A Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with everyone who is suffering from the devastating impact of Storm Ciara, including in the Calder Valley.

“We have activated the emergency Bellwin scheme to provide financial support to qualifying affected areas and we’re continuing to work closely with local councils to ensure that affected communities and businesses can recover as quickly as possible.”

Ahead of the Budget expected to take place next month, West Yorkshire Combined Authority has asked the Government to provide £123m towards a £245m programme of flood protection work covering 27 schemes over the next six years.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership has also created a £2 million recovery fund for around 600 businesses in Calderdale to recover from Storm Ciara.

Most of those affected are small to medium sized firms specialising in retail, leisure and tourism, many of which were unable to insure their businesses following the Boxing Day floods in 2015.