The very heavy rain all day on November 21 reminded us yet again of just how vulnerable we are to flooding. I understand as much water fell as on Boxing Day 2015.
Constant updates and reviews of policy and procedures are being undertaken by Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency, our lead partners. To pull all of the interested agencies together, and for coordinated working, the council as a lead flood authority, has its own Flood Partnership Board and this met again last Friday in Halifax Town Hall. It is an open meeting and the public are welcome to sit in and ask questions at the end. This is a prime opportunity for information sharing.
At the last full Calderdale Council meeting it was also agreed to form a scrutiny committee to scrutinise the working of this board.
In October the council launched its Flood Action Plan at the Mount Skip Golf Club. This was quite comprehensive on actions but there was no detail on financing, so I was delighted that this was on the agenda last Friday.
The government has given £35m to reduce flood risk to 1,600 properties locally which the EA will administer but the partnership will allocate. I would like to see all of the actions in the plan costed for people to see. Small claims for actions will be allocated by a steering group under Granville Davis, of Yorkshire Water.
Flood Recovery Grants from the Leeds City Region total £9.8m for homes and businesses, of which £6.5m has already been delivered. Growth Deal Three from the Leeds City Region has agreed £2.5m for Mytholmroyd and Neil Fearnley has been appointed flood programme manager for UCVR to help build back businesses. £3m has also been committed by CMBC.
Calderdale stretches for 22 miles and the number of assets affected and needing repair after the last Storm Eva flood is colossal. The council has committed £9m to repair assets and we have a new appointment in Simon Liversage to help with this task. Fifty-three specific projects have been identified. Scout Road landslip alone has cost £4.9m. Fifty-six rights of way were affected and 29 are already done. Copley Bridge is being replaced as the old one was washed away. The costs are constantly being evaluated and a live document records works and extra funds needed. A complicated variety of jobs require divers and asbestos specialists which all add to the cost.
November 21 was an opportunity to put into practice lessons learnt previously. Flood wardens again did sterling work and hubs are being extended to other locations. Volunteers are still needed in some areas like Luddenden Foot. Residents are naturally very anxious from bitter experience and I asked for the sirens to be extended and to go off sooner rather than later.
How are individual actions to be monitored? By steering groups and a website. Work is being done on eyeoncalderdale. The Flood Action Plan and Risk Strategy should be on the council website shortly. Community groups can monitor effectiveness in all areas.
There was no reference in the Flood Action Plan to what is happening with the catchment and what is being done to engage with landowners who should be taking responsibility for drains and water courses on their land, ensuring they are regularly maintained and unblocked. The Government is trying to encourage local councils to take back responsibility for the catchment as local knowledge is invaluable for this kind of work. I have discovered that we have old maps showing in detail drains, gullies etc still being used by our Highways Department as digital mapping does not give enough detailed information. We need to retain these for future use. Blocked drains are a major problem and need constant and regular clearing.
Lessons have been learnt from recent events and the amount of community involvement has been amazing. CMBC will work with partners and communities to make them ready to face flooding and improve resilience. Money needs to keep coming in to do the works but if we all work together them the task does not seem so enormous.
Have a very Merry Christmas (and let’s hope a dry one).
Councillor Jill Smith-Moorhouse, Luddenden Foot Ward, Calderdale Council