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Significant progress made since 2015 boxing day floods but further investment still needed

A review into the flooding across Leeds City Region by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and local partners says the economic cost of the 2015 Boxing Day floods in Yorkshire reached half a billion pounds.

Around 4,000 homes and 2,000 businesses were affected by the flooding with the cost of damage to infrastructure including bridges, roads and electricity sub-stations topping £100m.

The impact of the flooding on the health, including mental health impacts caused by stress, on City Region residents is also likely to reach £9.6 million over the next two years, taking into account loss of GDP, the cost to the NHS and private treatment.

In Calderdale, the local community suffered severe damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses, with a direct economic impact on SMEs alone reaching £47m. Towns such as Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd bore the brunt of the damage and unlike previous floods, communities in Sowerby Bridge, Elland and Brighouse were also badly affected.

Meanwhile in Leeds, the flooding centred on the commercial and industrial areas in Kirkstall which had a major impact on the railway infrastructure in and around the city centre. It is estimated that £10m of infrastructure damage alone was caused in the city as well as major disruption to travel and business premises.

In Leeds, £3.8m has already been invested to repair damage along the River Aire, including Phase 1 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. The government have committed funding to the Scheme, with £33million for phase one, which started in 2015, and an additional £35million for the second phase. A flood information centre opened earlier this month in Kirkstall to provide information and advice to residents and businesses.

A year on from the floods, a total of £207m has been committed by government and councils towards new flood defences and prevention in the Leeds City Region by 2021, which £73m announced in the 2016 Budget. In Calderdale, this includes £60 million for flood risk management of which £35 million is to reduce flooding to 1600 homes and businesses, £25m invested to repair roads and bridges and a further £9m towards the repair of flood defences.

However, with climate change making severe weather and flooding more likely in future, the review concludes that 90,000 homes and business premises in the City Region remain at risk of flooding, including 12,000 at serious risk.

The review identifies hundreds of millions more pounds are needed to safeguard City Region communities from future severe weather with an immediate call for £25m – on top of existing funding - to accelerate the delivery of 10 flood defence schemes over the next five years.

Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council who led the review, said: “As we near the one year anniversary of the Boxing Day floods, we are still feeling the impact on our local communities. I am so proud of the support and investment that we have seen to help our residents and businesses get back on their feet. But with so many thousands of homes still at risk of future flooding, more must be done to ensure we protect our communities.

“This review has produced some important recommendations that will help shape our investment activity over the long term and ensure we prioritise our most vulnerable areas. The Combined Authority is fully committed to doing all we can to protect our residents and businesses and we will now take forward these recommendations so that we start to see the benefits both socially and economically.”

The review found that the quick response by local authorities, the emergency services and Environment Agency helped ensure there was no loss of life. The quick action and commitment of additional funding from local authorities, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) helped support communities get back on their feet in the weeks and months that followed.

On top of the initial financial support from the LEP and Combined Authority, a further £7.8m of Local Growth funding has been committed to go towards investment in flood defence and prevention measures to safeguard communities and businesses most at risk of future flooding.

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said:

“One year on from Storm Eva it is important to look back at the devastating impact on our city and region, but also to remember the incredible response from our residents, businesses and community volunteers working alongside the council and other agencies to limit the effects. The investment in preventative measures including from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership is very welcome, but we know we need a great deal more funding to bring about the whole catchment area approach we need as soon as possible. Only when a comprehensive range of measures are in place will we be able to offer the vital reassurance and confidence people and businesses in our city and wider region need and deserve that such awful scenes will not be repeated. “

The review makes 19 recommendations for measures that councils, government, the Environment Agency, emergency services, and other local partners can put in place to improve recovery efforts and reduce the impact of future flooding on communities and business in the future. These include:

• Undertaking a full assessment of critical infrastructure and developing a long term resilience plan for protecting this infrastructure as a priority in times of flooding.
• Examining the use of reservoirs to contribute more effectively to flood mitigation.
• Providing additional support to help local communities and businesses in high flood risk areas to be better prepared to help themselves.
• The greater use of flood wardens and social media to ensure communities have access to real-time information and informed help on the ground.
• Ensuring that future investment in flood defences and mitigation measures is based on priorities along whole river catchment areas to both protect communities and support economic growth. This includes exploring the use of reservoirs and land management to reduce the build-up and flow of flood waters.

LCR Flood Review Report (.pdf opens in new tab)

 

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