Yorkshire MPs from both sides of Commons line up to demand action on flooding

0
Have your say

The Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has admitted “more needs to be done” to protect Yorkshire’s flood-ravaged communities as a chorus of MPs from across party divides demanded urgent action and more cash to tackle the ruinous chaos repeatedly faced in the region.

Politicians from all sides chipped in one-by-one to demand Ms Villiers provided proper flood defences as she gave a statement to the House of Commons on the devastating impact of Storm Ciara.

Flooding aftermath after Storm Ciara at Mytholmroyd. Rita Gill pictured outside her flooded property on Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd.

Flooding aftermath after Storm Ciara at Mytholmroyd. Rita Gill pictured outside her flooded property on Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd.

And Ms Villiers was forced to admit: "We know more needs to be done and we are determined to deliver."

She said 260 properties had been impacted in Yorkshire, plus another 150 in Greater Manchester, 100 in Lancashire, and 40 in Cumbria.

"Particularly severe impacts have been felt in Yorkshire along the River Calder, in Lancashire along the River Ribble, in Great Manchester along the Irwell and in Appleby on the Eden," she added.

But Yorkshire’s MP lined up one after another to stand up in the House and show enough is enough.

Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, said numbers were much higher than Ms Villiers thought and said in Calderdale 400 residential properties, 400 businesses, eight schools, two care homes, and two bridges had actually been hit.

She said there was “absolute devastation across Calderdale that for so many residents we are in the same position again, having flooded in 2015 in the Boxing Day floods”.

And she called on Ms Villiers to make the same flood grants which were available in 2015 accessible again immediately.

Tory MP for Shipley Philip Davies echoed that many of his constituents had also been flooded in 2015, which he dubbed “completely unacceptable”.

He asked: “Can [Ms Villiers] assure me that the flood defence program that the Government has in place will ensure that my constituents in Shipley won't have to suffer this fate

yet again?”

Ms Villiers said: “There can be no absolute guarantees with flooding but what I can assure him is that the Government is determined to press on with its major investment in our flood defences.”

While York Central Labour MP Rachael Maskell said there had been “promises broken [and] programmes undelivered”.

Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, said many of his constituents were still suffering from flooding in November.

The former Labour leader said: “I'm afraid Government help for those particularly without insurance, despite promises made, is inadequate.”

And he said pledges to match fund donations from the community in South Yorkshire was “penny-pinching, narrow-minded and wrong”.

While both Tory MP for Scunthorpe Holly Mumby-Croft and Hull North Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson called for a national flood resilience centre to be built close to Scunthorpe.

Ms Mumby-Croft said: “What the recent flooding incidents show very clearly is that we have a need for better resilience and better planning for these flooding events.”

Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves added: “There remains a £23m gap between what the Government has committed to floods defences in Leeds and what is needed to protect us against the floods we experienced just four years ago.

“We had a lucky escape yesterday, we may not be so lucky next time.”

Ms Villiers replied the Government had an “extensive programme” that it was “determined” to deliver.

And a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson said: "Since the 2015 Boxing Day floods, we have invested more than £35m in a scheme to better protect the city centre and have committed a further £65m for a ‘second phase’ to protect a wider area including the Kirkstall Road."

They added the Government was investing £2.6bn in flood defences in Yorkshrire.

Andrew Percy said in his constituency of Brigg and Goole the problem was more with ongoing maintenance, which he said was “absolutely vital to ensure our ditches and dates are free to take the water”.

He asked Ms Villiers to look at funding for local authorities to allow them to do this, and Ms Villiers admitted: “In many areas, capital spending isn't effective unless it is accompanied by resource spending to ensure the appropriate maintenance takes place. And nowhere is that clearer than in relation to floods and this is no doubt something that will be considered at the budget and the spending review.”

Ms Villiers said river levels in West Yorkshire and Lancashire are receding, before warning: "We must expect high river levels further down the stream in South Yorkshire over the next few days.

"So we urge people in at-risk areas to remain vigilant, not to take unnecessary risks and to sign-up to receive Environment Agency flood alerts.

"Some coastal flooding is probable tomorrow but is not expected to be in the more serious category."

Ms Villiers added "at least 25,000 properties and businesses" in flood-hit areas were "successfully protected" by flood defences over the weekend, telling MPs: "We know more needs to be done and we are determined to deliver."

Earlier in the day Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, who remained in his constituency to coordinate the response and whose own home was flooded, blamed delays on completing flood defences for the devastation.

He said he would be lobbying the Government to hold the Environment Agency to account over delays.

Ms Villiers also confirmed the Government has activated the emergency Bellwin scheme for areas in the north of England affected by Storm Ciara.

The scheme - activated for qualifying areas in West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire - enables local authorities dealing with the storm to apply to have all of the eligible costs they incur, above a threshold, to be reimbursed by the Government.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) source confirmed Flooding Minister Rebecca Pow had visited Calderdale, and Ms Villiers was due to visit Yorkshire in coming days.