York MP Rachael Maskell says government's approach to city's flooding is 'woefully inadequate'

A York MP has criticised what she described as "woefully inadequate flood management" by the Government as the city found itself yet again under water.

Labour's Rachael Maskell said York has been "badly let down" by Ministers as heavy rainfall meant the River Ouse peaked today at more than four metres above its normal summer levels.

Flood warnings were in place in six areas of the city and water levels were expected to fall slowly over the course of Wednesday November 4.

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It comes nearly five years on from the flooding caused by Storm Desmond and Storm Eva, where hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes when the Foss barrier was raised due to flooding of its electrical controls.

In a statement, Ms Maskell said that on the eve of a national lockdown, "York is yet again flooded, with businesses and residents put under the stress of woefully inadequate flood management".

She said: "Despite taking every opportunity to continually engage with Government and raise concerns in Parliament and with the Environment Agency, I feel that York has been badly let down.

"Ministers have been keen to visit to stand next to distressed residents and flood water for the cameras, but when this has disappeared, so have Ministers and their promises."

Picture James Hardisty. Colin Fidler, Landlord of the Kings Arms, King's Staith, York, peers from his upstairs window as rising floodwater from the River Ouse is pumped out of his pub after the river overtops it's banks and floods parts on York along the river.

She criticised the decision to downgrade a planned Yorkshire flooding summit, promised by Boris Johnson in the aftermath of the 2019 floods in South Yorkshire, to a seminar "where York stakeholders did not even receive an invite".

And she has written to Environment Secretary George Eustice over the fact that Property Level Resilience, a range of measures to help properties recover after a flood, has not been introduced in York.

She said: “Today my thoughts are with residents and business who have yet again been put under significant stress as the River Ouse has risen yet again, at a time when people are already experiencing real challenges, however Government’s commitments to York has been woeful and have failed our city.

"In writing to the Environment Secretary, I have plainly set out their unbelievable failings in securing proper flood mitigation and have demanded urgent resolve.

"York is not calling for higher and higher flood barriers which simply makes the problem worse downstream, but upper catchment management to prevent the volume of water coming downstream at the pace it does after a heavy rainfall event and to ensure that businesses, infrastructure and homes are flood secure.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “Since 2015, we’ve invested more in flood defences for Yorkshire than any other region. £496 million has been spent to better protect more than 66,000 properties, and £45 million has been specifically invested in the York Flood Alleviation Scheme to shield 2,000 homes and businesses .

“Looking ahead, we recently confirmed a record level of investment in flood and coastal defences to £5.2 billion up to 2027. As the nation continues to deal with the effects of coronavirus, we remain committed to better protecting residents, businesses and communities from the devastating impacts of flooding.”

As of 11am on November 4 there are 13 flood warnings in place around North Yorkshire, including five on the River Swale and River Ure.

It follows on from heavy rain falling on parts of the county since Sunday night, particularly the Dales and the Harrogate and Craven districts.

York, along with other parts of the region, was also hit by flooding in January and February this year, though the water levels this time round were not expected to be as high.

Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change at City of York Council, said earlier this week: “This year has been incredibly challenging, particularly with storms on consecutive weekends back in January and February and following this the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to affect all our lives.

"To hear that river levels are rising will be really difficult for many and we want to reassure residents that we’re doing everything we can to provide support and advice."