It is now two months since the devastating floods on Boxing Day and when I reflect on the last eight weeks, the sheer scale of devastation across the whole of the Calder Valley never ceases to amaze me.
Whether it’s visiting people’s homes or many of our diverse businesses, seeing roads and walls damaged, schools still closed, bridges destroyed or walking many of the miles of rivers and canals over the last few weeks, the damage is immense. The bill for the council and damage to our canal network and river alone is in excess of £32m. The bill to home owners and businesses many times more.
I’m not afraid to criticise the government when I feel criticism is due but I must say their response so far has been incredibly supportive.
The Secretary of State for DEFRA was here on Boxing Day seeing first hand the devastation to the Calder Valley and she responded almost immediately to my pleas for money to help. A package of £12m was made available and some of the money was paid over to Calderdale Council within days.
A package of £500 for flooded households to cover incidental costs, £2,500 for flooded businesses and a further £5,000 per home and business to put flood resilience measures in place was put together.
The government have instructed the Environment Agency that they must have a plan complete by the end of May for Mytholmroyd so building can commence from June and that they must have a full catchment plan completed for the whole of the Calder Valley by the end of October.
This must include the full catchment from the moors down to the valley bottom and mustn’t be just about building walls along the river – although that does play a part too. Whilst the money is there for Mytholmroyd, we will need a huge financial input for the full catchment plan.
Figures banded about prior to the floods suggest that we are about £15m short for flood defences. I suspect the shortfall will be higher by the time the plan is completed. So whilst the start is good, the work is far from over.