Minister pressed on Calder Valley flood defences

Business Minster Anna Soubry visits flood hit Mytholmroyd to speak to local businesses.  25 January 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Business Minster Anna Soubry visits flood hit Mytholmroyd to speak to local businesses. 25 January 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Business Minister Anna Soubry came under pressure to commit the Government to a review of the Calder Valley’s flood defences as she visited the area today.

The minister was shown the damage in Mytholmroyd by the Boxing Day floods and met business owners as they work to restore their properties.

Councillors took the opportunity to press Ms Soubry on the case for a £27 million package of measures for the area which currently has a £15 million funding shortfall.

Ms Soubry told The Yorkshire Post: “We have never spent money [on flood defences] in the way that we have but also the Prime Minister has made it very clear that we will look at specific need.”

She said the Government was already looking at “speeding up” a scheme in Lancashire and “it may well be the case that needs to happen in this area”.

She continued: “The truth of it is that the mount of rain that fell in a very short time was phenomenal. So we are looking at whether farmers should be encouraged far more to build reservoirs on their properties. We need to increase and encourage the growth of trees at the top of hills because we know the huge value that they have. There are these long term things that stop water getting into rivers in the first place.”

The minister promised to intervene with insurance companies to make the case for them continuing to cover businesses in the area which was also hit by flooding three years ago.

She said: “Now of course the insurers are saying given the scale of the damage, which was phenomenal, are we going to re-insure? That’s something where I can help out and I’ve said I will write to the insurers to say I’ve been and I’ve sen the work the Environment Agency and others are doing.”

Ms Soubry said she also wanted to look at ways of helping companies unable to trade while they wait for specialist equipment to be replaced.

The Government has made grants available to help businesses recover but Calderdale Council is pressing for measures to reduce the risk of the flooding returning in future.

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift said: “I think it is great we are getting this attention and help this time but we need to know that in a year’s time there will still be the same focus on to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Among the businesses Ms Soubry visited was the Shoulder of Mutton pub where the ground floor was damaged by five feet of water and repairs are expected to take up to four months.

General manager Owen O’Sullivan said: “There are a lot of different ideas they are looking at [for flood defences]. It is not going to happen overnight, everyone can appreciate that, but it does need to be looked at as a priority.

“As a business by a river we know we are going to get wet so when it happens we need to look at ways we can get back in business quicker. We need to find ways of adapting the business to work with it.”