Environment Agency marks 100 days of flood recovery in Yorkshire

Today (4 April) marks 100 days since the devastating floods hit many communities across Yorkshire – when the county experienced the wettest December since records began in 1910 and the rainfall led to record-breaking levels in the rivers Aire, Calder and Foss. Over the past 100 days Environment Agency teams have been working around the clock, carrying out an extensive repair programme worth in the region of £24 million. This includes the removal of collapsed bridges along the River Calder, gravel clearance and thousands of inspections. Assessments of nearly 8,500 flood defences have been carried out to identify what repairs are needed – with around 900 identified as needing some form of repair. More than 100 have already been completed and a further 300 are currently underway with the aim of getting all complete before the next winter. Work continues to identify what more can be done to reduce the risk of flooding in the future. Flood Support Officers have visited more than 150 communities around Yorkshire to provide advice and hear from those affected and a further 16,000 properties have been added to the free flood warning service. Phil Younge, major incident recovery manager, said:
The floods of December 2015 had a terrible impact on peoples’ lives, homes and businesses across the county. Many residents and businesses are not yet back in their properties. The job we have before us, of getting our defences back in a condition they were prior to flooding, is a huge challenge, but our teams are working tirelessly to restore protection to communities. We welcome the government’s recent announcement of £115 million to increase flood resilience across the Calder Valley, Leeds and York. This is in addition to £265 million we are already investing between now and 2021 to better protect 108,000 properties against flooding and coastal erosion.

Approximately 16,000 more properties have signed up to our free flood warning service since the December floods, which is great news. However, we continue to urge people to sign up to this free service as only one fifth of all properties at risk of flooding in Yorkshire currently receive flood warnings.

Floods Minister Rory Stewart said:
Boxing Day’s floods hit Yorkshire hard. Homes and businesses were deluged and many people were forced from their homes but it was inspiring how volunteers, emergency services and local authorities rallied together to help those in need. Since that day Environment Agency teams have worked tirelessly to help communities recover, from upgrading the Foss Barrier to removing tonnes of debris and clearing collapsed buildings and bridges.

Work on future flood protection for Yorkshire is well underway, looking at placing multi-million pound engineering solutions down-stream, alongside natural flood management measures up stream.

The 100 day milestone comes as a further £115 million was announced by Government for flood defence schemes in Leeds, York and the Calder Valley, which were badly affected in the December floods. The focus of this funding is on schemes that will help communities at highest risk and areas where new defences will have the greatest impact on supporting economic growth, particularly in areas that were affected in December. In Calderdale £35 million will be made available to investigate and progress options to reduce flooding at various sites including Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge. Work has already started on an action plan for flood defences in Mytholmroyd, which is to be completed by May 2016, and an outline business case is being developed for Hebden Bridge looking at a range of options to reduce the risk of flooding in the town. This is expected to be completed by early 2017 with construction starting in summer 2017. The Environment Agency is currently working with risk management authorities, local communities and partner organisations as part of a local flood partnership to develop a shared view on priorities for the area and deliver a catchment plan to reduce flood risk for the whole Calder Valley. The plan, which is expected to be completed by October 2016, will both build on work done to date and include a review of the recent flooding. In York £45 million has been secured to upgrade York’s flood defences. The additional funding means defences will be upgraded along the River Ouse in York. We are working in partnership with City of York Council and other flood risk partners to produce a wider programme of work to improve the resilience of flood defences in and around York. The programme of work will take in an area from Fulford to Clifton Ings, combining a range of soft and hard engineering approaches and will better protect over 2,000 properties. This is in addition to the £10 million that has already been committed for repairs and upgrades to the Foss Barrier, where work is planned to start in early April and be complete by December 2017. The barrier is being upgraded to make it more resilient and able to handle greater flows in the River Foss. In Leeds £35 million will be made available to take forward plans for future phases building on Leeds City Council’s current £45 million flood alleviation scheme. The Environment Agency was funded to carry out a Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme Scoping Study looking at future phases of the current scheme as a result of the flooding experienced throughout Leeds on Boxing Day 2015. The scoping study is now complete and sets out a range of options to be investigated further with a view to reducing flood risk to Leeds city centre and the Kirkstall Road area. The Environment Agency is working in partnership with Leeds City Council to produce a full business case which will establish the appropriate standard of protection for Leeds, looking at how this can be achieved, what it will cost and how long it will take to deliver. The scoping study highlights the need to take a catchment wide approach, looking at both engineered options, such as raised walls, embankments and flood storage areas, as well as natural flood management measures which work with natural processes and manage the sources and pathways of flood water. Over the next few months a consultant and construction team will progress the business case for approval in Autumn 2017. It is expected that work will start straight after this in late 2017 with significant progress to reduce flood risk to the city centre and Kirkstall Road. Further engineering work and a continuous programme of natural food risk management measures will carry on beyond 2021.
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