As we approach the two year anniversary of the devastating floods which hit the Calder Valley following Storm Eva, it’s a good time to assess some of the ongoing work that aims to better protect us in the future.
As the Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for flooding I’m following these developments particularly closely and have been getting involved with some exciting projects in Calderdale. A couple of weeks ago I joined Yorkshire Water at Gorpley reservoir above Todmorden helping plant the first of around 200,000 trees which will help reduce flood risk downstream.
Many readers will no doubt be aware of the growing significance of this kind of ‘natural flood management’. The idea is that for too long flood prevention has neglected the uplands, from where most of the water rapidly flows during periods of heavy rain. By creating an environment where water is slowed and absorbed before it reaches the valleys we can reduce the risk of conventional defences being breached. Tree planting is one method of achieving this, another is creating ‘leaky dams’ which consist of logs placed across upland water courses in order to hold more water in the countryside upstream. I’ll be joining local group Slow the Flow to help construct some of these in our local rivers next month.
Yorkshire Water are doing some good work in this area. They have announced that they will trial reducing the level of some of their reservoirs in Calderdale this winter to manage flood risk. If this practice is to become more widespread there are some issues that need sorting out in Westminster. At the moment water companies have a statutory responsibility to prevent droughts, with financial penalties if they fail to do so, yet there are no such legal responsibilities, or monetary incentives, to tackle flooding. This is something I’ll be urging the Government to address as I know from the number of letters I receive on this issue, that there is a lot of support for reservoirs being managed in this way.
It is crucial that if flooding does hit people’s homes and businesses that they are adequately insured to clean up the damage. The Flood Re scheme, which guarantees that many homeowners can get flood cover, seems to have been relatively successful in this area. However, it can still be improved as neither small businesses are included nor B&Bs and leaseholds in larger blocks. To get a clear picture of where things are working and where they can improve I’m leading a consultation for the Labour Environment team on Flood Re which will launch before the end of the year. I’m hoping local residents will be able to share their thoughts and I will soon be publicising full details on how to do this.