Proposed actions to address future flooding were supported by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority at its meeting yesterday.
The proposals suggested by the Combined Authority’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will inform the wider Flood Review currently being undertaken into the 2015 Boxing Day Floods. They include finding the true total costs of the floods, which affected over 7,000 homes and businesses and put more than 3,600 jobs at risk, and is estimated to cost the Leeds City Region economy up to £365m in 2016 alone.
Local communities’ excellent responses by both in supporting the emergency services during the flooding and helping the clear up in the immediate aftermath, was highlighted. The excellent work of the emergency services, local authorities and the Environment Agency and others was also noted.
The Plan also emphasises the need to ensuring additional protection for key infrastructure such as electricity substations, which were flooded, leaving thousands of homes, communities and businesses without power for several days. As was the need to build upon positive joint working with Utility Companies such as Yorkshire Water, which rapidly provided additional support to protect key infrastructure and communities.
Additional resources had been committed from Government to assist the clear up, rebuild key bridges and provide additional defences, but it was felt securing further funding was vital. This extra funding would ensure places have the necessary defences and other measures in place to prevent or reduce the severity of future floods.
The proposals also suggested ways of improving coordination between local authorities, the Environment Agency and the emergency services, which should be investigated. This included doing more to ensure the public is better aware of who to contact at time of floods and how they can help.
One suggestion is to provide a single contact point for the public for the distribution of necessary information in times of emergency. This would cover the whole of the City Region and would include more use of Social Media.
A Strategy Review, already underway, will look at how the Leeds City Region’s green infrastructure can improving long-term flood resilience and Resilience Frameworks will be developed for whole catchment areas including flood plains. These will focus on commercial premises and the knock-on effect on businesses if critical communication infrastructure is affected by floods.
Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair said:
“The Boxing Day floods were devastating for individual households, local businesses and the City Region’s economy so it is vital for us to work with Government and partner agencies such as the utility companies, emergency services and insurance industry to prevent and minimise the severity and frequency of future flood events.
“But, with these flooding events hitting West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region with increasing regularity it is important that we pull together the efforts of all agencies and all available funding to look at how we can prevent them, lessen their effects and avoid the huge impact in terms of misery to local households, costs to local business and the threat to local jobs.”
LEP chair, Roger Marsh OBE, said:
“The LEP and its local authority partners responded quickly to the 2015 Boxing Day Floods by setting up a Business Flood Recovery Fund in January, which has not only helped businesses with the costs of clear up but also provided a ‘cash-flow lifeline’ to ensure that they could continue trading whilst they got back on their feet.
“I am pleased that we have been able to help nearly 70 businesses to continue operating and supporting people’s jobs.”