Flood envoy - Government will listen to Yorkshire pleas for help

Yorkshire flood envoy Robert Goodwill MP and Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker (right) survey damage to Elland Bridge caused by the Boxing Day floods.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Yorkshire flood envoy Robert Goodwill MP and Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker (right) survey damage to Elland Bridge caused by the Boxing Day floods. Picture Bruce Rollinson

THE GOVERNMENT’S Yorkshire flood envoy has said ministers will continue to look at pleas for help with repairs to the region’s battered infrastructure on a “case-by-case basis”.

Robert Goodwill defended the Government’s response to the Boxing Day floods but acknowledged they had left councils and other organisations with repair bills they cannot afford.

The Scarborough MP and Transport Minister insisted he was ready to make the case for more funding to Chancellor George Osborne if it was needed.

He was in Calderdale to see the damage to Elland Bridge which will be repaired with £5 million of Government cash, following on from the commitment to fund the rebuilding of the partially collapsed bridge in Tadcaster.

Calderdale Council has estimated the total cost of damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, at more than £20 million.

Mr Goodwill said: “We’ve reacted very quickly initially and now we need to look at how we can rebuild, looking at big structures like this on a case-by-case basis whether it be Tadcaster or here at Elland.

“We know that either local authorities or the people that run the canals cannot afford this sort of big expense to repair and that’s why we’ve stepped up to the mark with new money from central government to make sure that’s done and we will continue to look at where we can help in the future.”

He added: “Where necessary we will go back to the Treasury, if it’s absolutely necessary, to see where we can get more help.”

Yorkshire councils have urged the Government to look again at the region’s flood defences with Leeds City Council asking last week for £3 million to help fund an extension to a scheme already under construction in the city.

Mr Goodwill promised the Environment Agency would use the information gleaned from the latest floods to guide its future spending on defences.

He also argued flood defences needed to be part of a wider discussion on the way water is managed.

Mr Goodwill said: “It’s no good just dredging a river or improving the flood defences in one part of the network if that just means the water is getting more quickly to another part of the network.

“Working with farmers and landowners we need to see how we can manage those catchment areas, particularly in the uplands better.”

It could take up to a year to repair Elland Bridge and an additional £500,000 will pay for a temporary footbridge while the work is completed.

Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift welcomed the help but said it was important to remember the smaller scale damage, alongside the major projects, which is also disrupting communities.

He added: “The challenge now is learning the lessons. I don’t know what the final bill for the flods is going to be in Calderdale but, if you count the insurance, I would expect it to be in the hundreds of millions and yet we’ve got two schemes that would have reduced the damage that need £15 million.

“So ultimately its got to make sense to put more money into prevention, but also to make things more resilient.”

Calderdale Council is setting up its own recovery fund as part of its response to the Boxing Day floods.