Crucial step is to restore confidence

CALDERDALE Council must put out the message that the Calder Valley is open for business following the floods in June and July.

Members of the public attending a meeting of the council’s economy and environment scrutiny panel heard that it was crucial to restore confidence for businesses and residents, in terms of how disasters like this were tackled and making it clear to the wider world that towns like Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd were ready to welcome visitors.

Council officers’ figures show that 70 per cent of the area’s businesses are trading and it was imperative to keep them trading, but businesses were noticing reduced footfall.

And a clear message from residents to the panel and representatives of other agencies, including the Enviornment Agency, was that more effort should be made to deal with problems that caused flooding and which local knowledge could help them tackle.

Coun Barry Collins said: “We are looking at working on community flood plans for the future because local knowledge is crucial, and also co-ordination with other agencies. Definite, clear co-ordination is needed.

“We need a major campaign to try and rebuild confidence in business terms and for residents, saying that soon all our towns will be open for buisness again.

“There will never be a permanent solution to flooding but we need to learn how to protect ourselves better next time.”

Chairing the meeting, Coun David Hardy, and ward Coun Richard Marshall both contrasted the efforts put in by local companies such as Weir Minerals at Todmorden and Vale Upholstery at Mytholmroyd to help their communities where they could and get up and running as soon as possible to protect jobs, with the decision by pub company Punch Taverns to put up for sale, rather than refurbish, the Railway pub in Hebden Bridge, the Dusty Miller in Mytholmroyd and the Golden Lion, the historic coaching inn, in Todmorden.

Coun Hardy said Punch Taverns was walking away from three perfectly good businesses and officers said they had met with Punch Taverns and would follow the issue up. “To see a company just walk away from three places in one valley, we should make some representations,” said Coun Hardy.

Residents raised issues of areas where they knew problems occurred, including blocked channels in Walsden Water through land under Network Rail’s ownership. Residents had complained about the matter for 15 years, the panel heard.

Sue O’Neill, the EA’s area flood risk manager, said where they encountered a problem if necessary they could go on to land to undertake work and bill the owners, but Network Rail land was one of the exceptions and the agency could only go on there and do work with their permission. Coun Hardy said: “We’ll try to find an answer.”