Partnership calls for ‘in public’ meetings

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The Hebden Bridge Partnership, representing over 40 community organisations in the town, has called for more transparency in the way the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council begin planning the Flood Alleviation scheme promised by October 2016.

In its submission to the Calderdale Council Flood Commission it recommends that beginning from March 11 - believed to be the date of its next meeting “all meetings of the Calderdale Flood Alleviation Partnership involving Calderdale Council, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, the Canal and River Trust etc are held in public and that a public record is maintained of the meetings”.

It also “recommends that a review is undertaken of the channels through which the EA announces its current plan of work, and the resources available for this”.

Since the annoucement by Environment Minister Liz Truss a month ago that this planning would get underway it has proved impossible, the Flooding Road shows notwithstanding, to get a clear picture of who within the EA is doing what with whom to begin this work, said Bob Deacon, chairman of the Partnership. A meeting called by Calder Valley MP for April 16, while welcome, is a long time away, he said.

In relation to the specific work planned for Hebden Bridge, information was gleaned at the February 13 Flood Road Show that the Hebden Bridge Flood Alleviation scheme team have now been funded to draw up a business plan to take planning the work forward. The HBP has recommended strongly that early conversations take place between the Hebden Bridge Flood Alleviation Team and organised interest groups such as the HRTC, HBP, HBCA, HBBF etc and the public generally before thinking of the team gets too set.

The issue of transparency arises too with regard to the way that Northern Powergrid has dealt with compensation payments for those left without electricity after Boxing Day.

The HBP has requested the Flood Commission make urgent representations to both Ofgem and Northern Powergrid to, firstly, change Ofgem regulations so that in future consumers are compensated, by central government subsidy, for outages that fall under the exceptional clause where Northern Powergrid are unable to access substations for repair work and, secondly, Northern Powergrid address the current unacceptable, in HBP’s view, inequity of treatment by not using the exceptional clause in the current flood and do compensate equitably all affected consumers in the valley.

To try to speed this latter issue up a Freedom of Information Request has been made to Northern Powergrid asking how many customers in HX7 were without electricity, how many of those have been compensated for the power cut, how many were initially refused compensation and how many of those initially refused have subsequently been offered compensation. It also asks in the case of those who were initially refused and subsequently compensated what policy decision made by whom and when led to this change of decision, said Mr Deacon.