Shadow secretary for climate change slams Government's response to floods in Calderdale

Shadow secretary for climate change Lisa Nandy said the government's delayed response to the floods in West Yorkshire was "poor".

Friday, 21st February 2020, 4:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 12:52 pm

The Wigan MP's comments come after her visit to one of the region's flood-struck towns Sowerby Bridge, where she spoke to businesses affected by a second major flood in just over four years.

Over 1,200 businesses and homeowners were hit by flooding across Calderdale after Storm Ciara and Dennis struck the district, causing devastation and economic disruption similar to that of the infamous Boxing Day floods in 2015.

Ms Nandy said: "The Government's response to flooded areas was poor and not good enough.

Shadow secretary for climate change and Wigan MP, Lisa Nandy

"After hearing from businesses in Sowerby Bridge, it's obvious people are tired of the disruption.

"The people living in this high-risk flood areas aren't able to get insurance - this should be national news.

"A lot of people are asking 'why aren't we Tier 1 status' for the next Budget meeting [on March 11]."

Razan Alsour, who co-owns Yorkshire Dama Cheese, in Sowerby Bridge, said: "The floods after Storm Ciara have cost us damages of around £30,000, which is rising everyday.

Business woman and former refugee Razan Alsour with partner Raghid Sandouk

"To get insurance it would cost £12,000 a year - we can't afford that.

"I'm originally from Syria but moved here because of the war.

"We had to give ourselves strength to recover from the loss we suffered.

"It's heartbreaking what's happened here - and we have absolutely lost confidence and feel our business' future is no longer in Sowerby Bridge."

Lisa Nandy with Calderdale Council Leader Tim Swift, and Mr Sandouk and Ms Alsour at the award-winning business Yorkshire Dama Cheese

This week, the government announced a major support package for businesses and homeowners across Calderdale.

The package includes thousands of pounds in support for residents within the worst-affected areas, including grants, and 100 percent council tax and business rate relief for three months.

But the shadow cabinet's climate change secretary, who is also bidding to become Labour's first female leader, said she felt the government needs to look at alternative strategies to tackle an issue she is confident is being caused by climate change.

"The people of Calderdale have suffered three major floods since 2012 - this is a climate emergency," she said.

"I've spoken to councillors from Calderdale including Scott Patient, who has asked for the Government to look at long-term plans of using farm land and creating sustainable upland management schemes."

Halifax and Sowerby Bridge MP, Holly Lynch said businesses and homeowners live in a constant stage of flood alert.

She said: "We've got to take this fight to Government.

"We've tried to work with the Conservatives - and the major flood package for flooded areas is a step in the right direction, but there's a need to look seriously at providing affordable insurance for flooded businesses and homes.

"The Government need to put Calderdale as a Tier-1 priority for flood prevention.

"We just know we're at a place that has to be resilient to survive because we're going to face this again and again."

Scott Patient, Calderdale Council's Cabinet Member for Climate Change, who lives in flood-struck Mytholmroyd, said: "Beyond resilience we need to reduce the devastating pacts of these ever more frequent events on our communities.

"We need long-term investment into tackling climate change,and upland and natural flood management.

"We also need to overhaul how insurers think about flood-prone areas as lots of us are still without insurance."

"If this issue isn't taken seriously, these areas won't be able to retain business, said Ms Nandy.

"Our Government needs to create a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change and we should not be doing trade agreements with countries like the US, which have pulled out of the Paris Agreement."

Calder Valley Conservative MP, Craig Whittaker said he was “furious” after the Government took nine days to trigger the funding following the Storm Ciara floods.

Mr Whittaker also said the Mytholmroyd flood defence work completion date took too long.

He said: “The flood defence project for Mytholmroyd has taken too long - it’s a mess.”

The newly-appointed Environment Secretary, George Eustice said: “We’ve once again seen the devastating effects of floods on households and communities across the country.

“We know climate change means extreme weather events like this are more likely, and are already investing £2.6 billion in flood defences by 2021, with over 600 projects already protecting 200,000 properties.

“This crucial funding will help people make their homes more resilient and better protected if flooding happens again.”

According to Calderdale Council, which covers flood-hit areas Brighouse, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, and Todmorden, the Government's major support package is currently being studied so funding schemes can be opened as soon as possible.