In her latest Talking Politics column for the Halifax Courier, Halifax MP Holly Lynch discusses the impact of the recent flood
Last Sunday we witnessed the devastation of a third major flooding event in Calderdale in the past eight years. Sadly, dealing with what was once considered a once in 50 or 100 years flooding event is becoming a regular occurence for many parts of our borough.
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We know that the flooding affected up to 500 residential properties, around 400 businesses, eight schools and two care homes. Two bridges were also damaged and temporarily closed. For businesses and residents in the worst affected areas this must have seemed like déjà vu.
The response from the emergency services, council, flood wardens and local residents was remarkable once again. It really was heart-warming to see everyone pulling together to do what they could to help each other as I visited several of the flood affected areas.
The council and Community Foundation are making flood grants available to businesses and residents once again, yet there is no indication as I write this that the government is to provide the funding that they did when we were flooded in 2015 to help cover this. There is also no confirmation that the government will be helping with the cost of the infrastructure damage. The total for repairs to highways and bridges was in the region of £25 million following the 2015 floods. I will be pressuring the government to provide the funds we desperately need for repairs.
As we move from the immediate clean-up operation and move on to thinking about managing the long-term risk that we face here, I believe that Calderdale as a borough should be recognised as a “Tier 1” sustained risk area for flooding by the government.
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It’s clear that a small council such as Calderdale - with an almost unique flood problem - simply cannot cope with repeated flooding events the likes of which we have seen this past decade – especially after £114m in cuts from its budget.
The council has significant ongoing costs to find every year in order to mitigate flood risk which are not currently recognised through central Government funding. The local authority needs revenue funding to cope with this – not just one-off grants.
We must also think about why it is that we have seen so many flood events in such a short space of time. I was pleased that the council declared a climate emergency last year and appointed a Cabinet member for Climate Change and Environment, demonstrating its commitment to tackling this issue.
It is possible that some of the uncompleted flood defence schemes would have better protected our communities had they all been in place and fully complete. However, building walls to contain flood waters will only help us to a certain extent. We need to take a holistic approach to flooding – looking at our impact on the environment, and particularly how we managing our moorlands and reservoirs.