Flood bill is costing millions of pounds

Flood water surrounds local shops in the centre of Mytholmroyd last June
Flood water surrounds local shops in the centre of Mytholmroyd last June

Today, Saturday, June 22, will mark the anniversary of the first of three floods which devastated the Calder Valley in 2012.

Some will choose not to mark the day, while others will have a quiet moment of reflection. But one thing is for sure, the valley will never be the same because of it.

Over £3 million has been spent so far on restoring flood defences and helping the valley recover, with funding provided by the Environment Agency, Calderdale Council, Yorkshire Water, the Canal and River Trust, Central Government, and other agencies.

And in its Calderdale Flood Recovery Plan, the local authority estimates that over the next eight to 10 years around £42 million will be needed to reduce the impact of future flooding.

In the immediate future, the Environment Agency has secured £3.5 million, and has applied for a further £1 million, for minor works over the next two years.

A contract has been let to develop outline designs for channel maintenance works at Mytholmroyd and Jumble Hole Clough, Callis Bridge. Once these have been developed a contract will be tendered for the programme with works due to begin in the late summer. The programme will last for two years and also include channel maintenance works at Nutclough, Hebden Bridge; Birks Clough, Walsden; Pin Hill Lane, Midgley; Shop Lock, Todmorden; Erringden Hillside, Hebden Bridge; Dobroyd Clough, Todmorden; Rights of Way Improvements (Borough wide); A646 Burnley Road flooding hot spots; Bottomley Clough, Walsden; Cragg Road, Cragg Vale; Shoeboard Clough Dam, Todmorden; Cross Stone Road, Todmorden; and Bacup Road, Todmorden. The timing of the specific schemes have not yet been identified. Other schemes have been identified for future years but funding has not yet been secured for these works.

The agency will also spend a couple of hundred thousand pounds on seven further packages of work, including schemes for Hebden Bridge, upland management, river stewardship, channel management, a capital scheme review to see how flood defence schemes in the area can be improved when future funding is secured, a flood investment plan to highlight projects that need to be done over the next ten years and a catchment-wide feasibility study.

Andrew Coen, the Environment Agency’s project manager for the Calder Valley works, said: “I don’t think operationally we did anything wrong after the June floods. You either get a flood that exceeds your defences or one that doesn’t. The post-flood response was pretty good. Broadly speaking, Calderdale Council has done a good job, the Environment Agency has done a good job and our other partners have done a good job. The key thing about flooding in the upper Calder Valley is to be prepared and build your defences before it happens.” Calderdale Council has secured £300,000 from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for its Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder Scheme which will aim to better prepare residents for future flooding, reduce flood risk, help the area recover faster from future flooding and improve insurance provision/availability.

The scheme will do this through promoting household resilience (giving out advice that will get the average cost of restoring a house after a flood down from the £30,000 average and therefore lower insurance excesses and make properties insurable), business resilience (working with businesses to make sure they have a flood plan), community resilience (working with the flood action groups that have been set up in Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd), upland and river stewardship, and communication (a new website, www.firstplacefor.info, details the latest flood information and advice).

Calderdale Council Leader Tim Swift said: “The big challenge now is understanding what things we can do which can best make a difference in reducing the risk of future flooding and putting things in place for when flooding happens. What we need is a robust model to find out what happens when there’s flooding in the upper Calder Valley so we can find the best way in which money can be spent.”

Rob Holden, who set up a Facebook group to help people quickly access and relay important information in the immediate aftermath of the floods and also played a key role in setting up the flood action groups, said: “I have been working with all three flood action groups, getting them up to speed and getting them organised. They’re doing well and working with Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency.

“The flood groups can only help the community. It’s about getting the community prepared, giving it a voice and getting things done.

“I think one of the major things from the community’s point of view is that we get storage containers dotted up and down the valley, managed by the flood groups, which will contain emergency supplies. That’s partly down to the DEFRA funding secured by Calderdale Council. We know we’re not immune from flooding and we’re advising people to that fact, even if they don’t live in the valley bottom.”

Mark Wigley, from the Canal and River Trust, said “The canal was quite badly affected after the 2012 floods, particularly on June 22. We have been heavily involved in rebuilding sections of the Rochdale Canal that were damaged and have spent around £300,000 to £400,000 on repairs.”

For more information on the flood action groups, call 08450 041814.