Summit to stop repeat of Yorkshire floods 'hasn't happened because of pandemic'

A summit promised by Boris Johnson to improve flood defences has still not happened seven months on from the devastating South Yorkshire floods because of the coronavirus pandemic, says the Environment Secretary.

George Eustice told the Commons that the outbreak "has taken up quite a lot of our time and obviously made it very difficult to physically travel to areas".

He was asked by Barnsley MP Stephanie Peacock why a summit bringing together senior officials from local and national agencies to stop a repeat of November's flooding in South Yorkshire had not yet happened.

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The floods had a devastating impact across many parts of South Yorkshire, with almost 1,000 homes and 560 businesses affected and many still facing repair work or unable to return home.

In the aftermath the Prime Minister backed the idea of holding a flooding summit to bring together local authorities, government, and agencies to create a plan for flood defences in South Yorkshire and the wider North including South Yorkshire’s Don river valley.

But in February Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis wrote to Mr Eustice's predecessor Theresa Villiers complaining that she had still not responded to his pleas for a summit.

Ms Peacock told the Commons today: "Last November, after the devastating floods, the Prime Minister committed to holding a summit to improve flood defences in the North of England.

"Can I ask the Secretary of State why, six months on, this summit has not taken place? Can he set a date, and can he confirm that the Prime Minister will honour his commitment and be in attendance?"

Mr Eustice replied: "The reason that we have not yet had that summit is quite simple: it is that the coronavirus outbreak has taken up quite a lot of our time and obviously made it very difficult to physically travel to areas.

"I think it would be better to have a summit such as that physically in the location, rather than it being yet another Zoom meeting.

"However, I can give the honourable ady a guarantee that that summit will indeed take place. I gave that commitment and it will happen."