‘Why are people still waiting for flood protection?’ – York MP

AN MP says York residents and businesses are still waiting for the flooding protection they need, five years after the city was devastated by the Boxing Day floods of 2015.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell claimed that in spite of ever more frequent flooding along the River Ouse, property level resilience measures were yet to be installed, following “significant delays and poor contract management”.

She claimed: “While residents would have preferred a community scheme, they have been left having to foot bills of £1,000s to protect their homes where the grant doesn’t stretch far enough.

“While we witness flood walls being raised, it is disappointing that the Government has failed to invest in upper catchment management to ‘slow the flow’ through planting, restoring land use and water storage.

“Instead they have defended grouse shooting, which depletes the soil’s ability to hold water and removes vital vegetation to hold water back.”

She said businesses along the Ouse had also lost out on flood insurance, as the industry had turned its back on those not covered by the Flood:Re protection scheme and the Environment Secretary had come to York last February during the floods, promising a Yorkshire Flood Conference, but this hadn’t happened.

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said the Environment Agency had made “very significant progress” to ensure the city was protected against any repeat of the terrible Boxing Day floods, but ideally he would like to see more rapid improvements to give residents greater peace of mind.

“Anyone menaced by floodwater in 2015 will still have nagging anxiety until works protecting their home are complete, so even accepting the technical challenges, the agency really cannot go fast enough,” he said.

“The agency are usually very helpful in addressing individual flood risk cases I raise with them on behalf of constituents, and my regular meetings with them are always constructive.”

He said Naburn residents were significantly concerned by a decision to only provide property-level protection to homes and the agency must intensify efforts to guard against any perception that the needs of outlying downstream communities were a poor second to those of the city centre.

Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning at City of York Council, said the work by the agency to improve flood defences had been “welcome” but the scale of work needed had meant that it had taken time, which had been a concern to residents.

“It often takes much longer than residents expect, especially if you have the upset of having been flooded,” he said.” The city has benefitted from the legacy of the volunteering that happened during the flood and clear up which has created many groups, and friendships which have continued for all this time.

“Many of the stages of a flood project, which are normally worked through in advance of public consultation, have been more visible, and that has led to some active debate.

“This is only to be expected when there are so many people who wanted to see their flood risk reduced, and York, particularly the city centre, is an area where there is active debate about planning applications and changes to existing structures.

“Council officers have worked hard with the agency to help develop plans, and this is an ongoing process, but with recent planning permissions having been achieved, I hope that they can be delivered as quickly as possible, with everything possible being done to minimise the inevitable disruption.”

He said that in 2015, the agency had effectively been pencilling in a figure of £22 million to be invested by around about now.

“By including the five year plan, Foss Barrier, and Leeman Road defences, which took until 2014 to complete at the new standards of height protection, the city will have gained the best part of £100 million,” he said.

l Ben Hughes, of the Environment Agency, explains what it has done since 2015 – and what it is planning to do – to protect homes on pages 4 and 5.

York Press | News