Communities must lie at the heart of flood relief work in the Calder Valley.
That was the message from Emma Howard Boyd, chairman of the Environment Agency, as she visited Hebden Bridge.
Her visit to the town came one day after Chancellor George Osborne announced in his budget that an additional £35m will be invested in the Calder Valley to better protect 1,600 properties.
This will include schemes in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. A feasability study for the Calder Valley is already under way, with an plan for Mytholmroyd due to be published in May and a plan for the whole valley by autumn.
Ms Howard Boyd said: “[The allocation] is very much to work in conjunction with the local community to make sure that we are looking at a full range of flood defence measures.
“It’s about making sure what we are proposing takes into account different thinking - from those who are more interested in traditional methods of flood defence to making sure that we are taking into account more natural measures.
“I think a crucial part of this is how communities build resilience into their own plans, because what we saw over Christmas is very much consistent with some of the long-term modelling for climate change.
“So we need to make sure that the Environment Agency, working with communities, is helping those communities to become resilient so it’s not just about the formal structures we can put in place, but it’s also how houses, how businesses that have been flooded can put in measures themselves.
“I think it’s about whole communities, with ours and others support, becoming more resilient and thinking about a suite of measures that need to be put in place.”
Adrian Gill, area flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said that a range of measures would be considered down the valley.
At the top of the catchment, this would include managing the moorlands, planting trees, managing drains and looking at how the catchment responds to rainfall.
“The approach we are proposing and supporting is an integrated catchment plan approach, which not only takes into account traditional methods of flood defence, but also those softer, natural flood management measures,” Mr Gill said.
“We see them as complementary. We think there will be a need for some traditional measures, in places like Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, but we think there are ways to provide that which the community can support.
“I genuinely believe that the announcement made in the budget is hugely positive for the Calder Valley.
“We’ve been working for a number of years to look at what we can do to both raise awareness and to increase resilience in residential and commercial properties so they can get back up and running quickly, and to reduce risk.
“The money will allow us to do more and we will work hard to ensure that work happens quickly and we engage with communities.”