York and Leeds sidelined as £12.5m announced for '˜temporary' flood defences

MILLIONS of pounds are being spent on new temporary flood defences after a Government review.

Huntingdon Road and Yearsley Crescent covered by floodwater after the River Ouse and River Foss burst their banks in York city centre, last December

The National Flood Resilience Review was set up after devastating floods last winter across parts of Yorkshire, to assess how the country could be better protected from future flooding and increasing extreme weather.

Storms last December inflicted misery on parts of West, South and North Yorkshire and Cumbria, where in some places flood defences did not work, forcing thousands of people from their homes over Christmas. Some have still not been able to return.

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The long-awaited report outlines £12.5 million for temporary defences such as barriers and high-volume water pumps.

The winter floods led to the flood resilience review

But York and Leeds, where some of the worst flooding occurred, are barely mentioned in today’s report, which instead focuses on a pilot project in Sheffield, which the government says will “enable the city to identify development of a type that will beautify the city-scape, unlock opportunities for urban regeneration and fit with local development priorities”.

West Yorkshire’s Calder Valley - also the scene of heavy flooding last winter - was used as a “survey area” in the report, but it contains no specific proposals to prevent further floods there.

The winter floods led to the flood resilience review

The report includes commitments from utilities to increase protection of key local infrastructure such as phone networks and water treatment works.

It also sets out a new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and seas around England.

Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with Environment Agency modelling for the first time to assess flood risk.

The £12.5 million will see temporary defences held at seven strategic locations around the country, and will mean that by next winter the Environment Agency will have four times more temporary barriers than last year.

The Government also said it would use the evidence of the review to plan investment in flood defences after 2021.

It has already committed £2.5 billion between 2015 and 2021 to strengthen flood and coastal defences, as well as spending £1 billion on maintaining defences, officials said.

But Dr Stephen Gibbs, whose family has been flooded out twice in Carlisle and who chairs the city’s Flood Action Group, criticised the report.

The university lecturer suggested the Environment Agency was simply not equipped to do the job of tackling flooding and that the whole problem needs a re-think and change in approach.

He said: “Flooding is the biggest threat to life and limb in the UK since World War Two.

“The issue is Government statutory powers to say ‘We will defeat flooding’.

“The Environment Agency have a pattern - they have a flood, they have a review, then they get out the Elastoplast and hope for the best until the next flood.

“Temporary flood defences are part of the filibustering that the EA are having to do.

“The Dutch defeated flooding because their senior politicians sat down and said ‘How can we defeat this?’ And they defeated flooding.”

Dr Gibbs said local councils had some responsibilities for flood defences but they were “hanging on by the skin of their teeth” while the EA is responsible for everything from issuing fishing licences and boat permits and not equipped to deal with an issue needing “a large-scale strategic approach”.

He said a cross-party approach involving senior politicians was needed for a “root-and- branch” change to the way Government approaches the problem of flooding.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom insisted the report “set out clear actions” to respond quickly in the event of future flooding.

She said: “Work is already under way towards £12.5 million of new temporary defences stationed around England, better protection for our infrastructure and new flood modelling that makes better use of data and technology.

“We are absolutely committed to reducing the risk of flooding by investing £2.5 billion up to 2021 so we can help protect families, homes and businesses this winter.”

The Government has faced pressure from councils whose communities are at risk of flooding over delays in unveiling the review, chaired by senior Tory Oliver Letwin, which was due to be published in the summer.

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