Criticism into warnings and flood defence

National Flood Forum chief executive Paul Cobbing in Mytholmroyd.
National Flood Forum chief executive Paul Cobbing in Mytholmroyd.
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The commission considering the causes, the impact and response to the Boxing Day floods have revealed that warnings were inadequte.

The Calderdale Flood Commission has produced its interim report and has called for future plans for defending the area against flood to include land and water management to slow the flow of water into the Calder.

The big clean-up continues on Market Street, Hebden Bridge, after the Boxing Day floods, 2015

The big clean-up continues on Market Street, Hebden Bridge, after the Boxing Day floods, 2015

But its report warns that the way funding is given to flood defence projects is biased towards engineered flood defences.

In the report that was discussed at a public meeting at Halifax Town Hall it said: “The most important fact in relation to the flood is that there were no fatalities.

“The fact that it was a bank holiday and so resources were reduced, as well as the fact that there were calls for those resources from areas outside Calderdale, makes the efforts of those involved even more praiseworthy.

“However, we also have to accept that we were lucky. Occurring on Boxing Day may have meant that resources were reduced, but it also meant that the schools which were flooded were empty, and that many people were away for Christmas.

“We heard from a number of people that the levels and breadth of warnings before the emergency were inadequate. This included a number of people telling us that due to the topography of the upper valley there are “blind spots” where the siren warnings can’t be heard. Many homes and business had put flood resistance measures in place after 2012. Some worked well. Others were simply overwhelmed by the floods this time. It is important to learn what works well and what doesn’t.

The Flood Commission was announced by Calderdale Council’s Cabinet in response to the unprecedented flooding on Boxing Day 2015.

Chaired by Paul Cobbing, the Chief Executive of the National Flood Forum, membership of the Commission includes seven Councillors, representing each of the three main political parties in Calderdale.

“When the Flood Commission was set up we agreed to share our initial recommendations to the Council within three months, so that any urgent actions could be implemented immediately and these are outlined in our report,” said Mr Cobbing.

“There is still further work to be done. We’ve identified a number of critical issues which we need to examine in greater detail, including health, transport and the impact of climate change.”