Re­flect­ing on the dev­as­ta­tion of the floods

Halifax Courier - - Quiz Of The Week -

It is now two months since the dev­as­tat­ing floods on Box­ing Day and when I re­flect on the last eight weeks, the sheer scale of dev­as­ta­tion across the whole of the Calder Val­ley never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s vis­it­ing peo­ple’s homes or many of our di­verse busi­nesses, see­ing roads and walls dam­aged, schools still closed, bridges de­stroyed or walk­ing many of the miles of rivers and canals over the last few weeks, the dam­age is im­mense. The bill for the coun­cil and dam­age to our canal net­work and river alone is in ex­cess of £32m. The bill to home own­ers and busi­ness many times more.

The En­vi­ron­ment Agency alone has over 1500 calls logged for jobs.The Canal and Rivers Trust sim­i­larly have a plan, first to clear the tow paths so walk­ers and hik­ers can use the miles of fa­cil­ity, se­condly clear­ing the dam­aged canal walls, then fi­nally open­ing up the nav­i­ga­tion chan­nel for boats to nav­i­gate.

As read­ers will be aware, I’m not afraid to crit­i­cise the govern­ment when I feel crit­i­cism is due but I must say their re­sponse so far has been in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive. The Sec­re­tary of State for DEFRA was here on Box­ingDay­see­ing­firsthandthe dev­as­ta­tion to the Calder Val­ley and she re­sponded al­most im­me­di­ately to my pleas for money to help. A pack­age of £12m was made avail­able and some of the money was paid over to Calderdale Coun­cil within days. A pack­age of £500 for flooded house­holds to cover in­ci­den­tal costs, £2,500 for flooded busi­nesses and a fur­ther £5,000 per home and busi­ness to put flood re­silience mea­sures in place when they put their homes or busi­nesses back to­gether. We have se­cured a mas­sive £5.5m from govern­ment to re­build El­land Bridge and put up a tem­po­rary foot­bridge. For those con­stituents who be­lieve that Tad­caster got all the at­ten­tion, in fact we got our foot­bridge in El­land built and open a full four weeks ahead of Tad­caster.

We have also se­cured fund­ing for the build­ing of flood de­fences in Mytholm­royd. The govern­ment have in­structed the En­vi­ron­ment Agency that they must have a plan com­plete by the end of May for Mytholm­royd so build­ing can com­mence from June and that they must have a full catch­ment plan com­pleted for the whole of the Calder Val­ley by the end of Oc­to­ber. This must in­clude the full catch­ment from the moors down to the val­ley bot­tom and mustn’t be just about build­ing walls along the river – al­though that does play a part too.

We’ve also got up to £2m in matched fund­ing on the do­na­tions to­wards the flood re­lief, which is to be shared out pro­por­tion­ately be­tween all the ar­eas around the coun­try flooded by Storm Eva. I am cur­rently lob­by­ing govern­ment to see if we can get this raised fur­ther as due to the huge gen­eros­ity of peo­ple, we in Calderdale have raised in ex­cess of £2.3m alone.

Whilst the money is there for Mytholm­royd, we will need a huge fi­nan­cial in­put for the full catch­ment plan. Fig­ures banded about prior to the floods sug­gest that we are about £15m short for flood de­fences. I sus­pect the short­fall will be higher by the time the EA have com­pleted their plan for us in Oc­to­ber. Calderdale Coun­cil and the Canal and Rivers Trust will also need help. The dev­as­ta­tion and dam­age is too big and too ex­pen­sive with­out govern­ment help. The £32m equates to about a 43.5 per cent Coun­cil Tax rise, just to high­light the scale of the money we need ( just for the record, I am not say­ing peo­ple will have a 43.5 per cent Coun­cil Tax rise and only say this to high­light the scale of the prob­lem!)

Fi­nally we will need on­go­ing sup­port for our busi­ness com­mu­nity to get flood cov­ered in­sur­ance. As I high­lighted in a re­cent de­bate that I se­cured in Par­lia­ment, there are far too many busi­nesses that ei­ther can’t get flood in­sur­ance or the pre­mi­ums or ex­cesses are as­tro­nom­i­cal. If we can’t get pro­tec­tion for th­ese busi­nesses, many will move away or just fold and that will have an ad­verse ef­fect on our com­mu­ni­ties, economies and in­deed em­ploy­ment. For home own­ers who couldn’t get flood in­sur­ance af­ter the 2012 floods, the good news is that from April 1 they will be able to do so via the new Flood Re scheme.

So whilst the start is good, the work is far from over.

El­iz­a­beth Truss MP, Sec­re­tary of State for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Affairs makes a visit to see Mytholm­royd fol­low­ing the floods over Christ­mas.

Peo­ple wade through flood wa­ters at Mytholm­royd in Calderdale, West York­shire, where flood sirens were sounded af­ter tor­ren­tial down­pours.

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