It’s time that the Government took the escalating flood risk more seriously
We need action urgently to help households recover from flooding and a longer-term investment plan to make South Yorkshire more resilient to floods, writes Stephanie Peacock MP.
Today I will lead a debate in Parliament on flooding in South Yorkshire.
In November, heavy rainfall over a period of twenty-four hours, nearly the expected amount for the whole month, caused some of the most devastating floods in over a decade.
Families hurried to pack their belongings before the flood water hit their homes, leaving huge destruction in its wake.
Over 1000 homes and 565 businesses across South Yorkshire were affected. In my area of Barnsley 89 homes were impacted and 25 roads closed.
In Doncaster alone, there were 242 properties where residents were unable to return home for Christmas.
Yet, the Government refused to declare the floods, which left hundreds homeless and caused significant disruption to travel services, a national emergency.
Thousands of people were affected and sadly one person lost their life.
This is not the first time in recent years that South Yorkshire communities have been hit with severe flooding. Indeed, residents in Low Valley in Wombwell have been relocated twice in the last twelve years, during the 2007 floods and now during the 2019.
People from my community are fed up with the Government’s response to the escalating food risk and damage. They want assurances that everything is being done to prevent damage at this scale from ever happening again. Households and businesses are facing real hardship right now, with many of the worst hit living in caravans in what used to be their driveways. Roads and essential infrastructure need immediate attention.
We need action urgently to help households recover from the most recent flooding and a longer-term investment plan to make our region more resilient to floods.
The people of Yorkshire have a proud tradition of coming together when times are tough. Resilience and community spirit have been passed down through the generations, shown in the aftermath of the most recent floods.
Over £525,000 has been donated by members of the public, local authorities and community organisations to the South Yorkshire Community Foundation.
It is distressing to note that our Government have only committed to matching the amount raised by my friends and South Yorkshire neighbours, especially when the Mayors of Doncaster and the Sheffield City Region have asked for £3million in additional support to meet the basic needs of affected households and businesses.
We need capital funding now, either from the EU Solidarity Fund, which was set up to help communities recover in the aftermath of natural disasters, or from an alternative governmental source.
The people of South Yorkshire are facing a long road back to recovery.
In the long term our region needs investment to ensure that our communities are better prepared and protected against flood damage.
I would like to express my gratitude to the hardworking and tireless members of the South Yorkshire Fire Brigade and local authorities, including my borough’s Barnsley Council, whose staff worked 24/7 to make sure people were kept safe and fed during the floods. We need the Government to guarantee that their already overstretched budgets won’t be further cut.
Flood investments is over twice as much in London and the South East compared to the North. This is, frankly, a scandal. Without a fully integrated approach to flood defence management, which is reinforced by major investment and support from the Government, the homes and livelihoods of the people of South Yorkshire are at risk.
The Prime Minister was happy to visit affected areas during the election. I am asking him to make good on his commitment to hold a Flood Summit, which brings together regional partners and stakeholders, to agree a flood prevention strategy and investment.
It’s time that the Government took the escalating flood risk, a direct consequence of climate change, more seriously. The cameras may have stopped rolling but to the people of Barnsley, and South Yorkshire, the effects of the floods are still a daily reality.
Stephanie Peacock is Labour MP for Barnsley East.