10 Jun 2016

Six months after the Floods: Where are we up to?

Submitted by anthonyrae

Calderdale Friends of the Earth and Calder Future (who organised the extremely well attended public meeting at the Birchcliffe Centre on 21st January) have prepared a progress check at the midpoint of the 12 month period leading up to the anniversary of last December’s devastating floods. The briefing (which you can download from the bottom of this page) reviews the actions taken so far by the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council, whilst its second page is a summary of our comments about the initial findings of the Calderdale Floods Commission.

It welcomes the effective action taken by the EA, Council, and of course other organisations in the first six months since the floods but then identifies some significant weaknesses that need to be corrected now, in June-July, if the process leading up to the publication of the Calder Catchment plan in October beyond is to have longterm success. These include:

- concerns about uncertainty in the process leading up to the final report of the Calderdale flood Commission, due to be submitted to Calderdale Council in just a few weeks time (20th July) and that its recommendations are not sufficiently strong and strategic.

- that the scope of the critical Catchment wide plan has not yet been made public or consulted on (although since the briefing was written it has been announced that the first meeting around this will be held on Saturday 18th June).

- without this it is not possible to check whether the right balance is going to be struck between traditional flood alleviation that are being proposed for Mytholmroyd (just published here) and Hebden Bridge, and more innovative work in the uplands to retain and slow flood waters before they reach the valley bottom.

- concerns about the continuing adequacy of the community engagement programme being organised by the EA and Council, despite the extra effort now being put into this. It suggests that the quality and accessibility of online communications about the longterm response to flooding needs a further stepchange improvement.

The briefing’s summary conclusion is this: ‘If action is not taken now (June-July) to respond to these emerging weaknesses then the ability of the EA town project plans and the full Catchment Plan to provide the most effective long-term flooding security and to command the confidence of Calder Valley communities, householders and businesses will be substantially compromised.’ 

This should not be seen as negative criticisms and are intended to be constructive for the second six month period. Suggesting a midcourse correction is a positive part of the community’s response to flooding. If members of the public want to contribute to this positive process there are a number of ways in which they can do this:

- comments about the final report of the Flood Commission: floodcommission@calderdale.gov.uk

- comments about activity by the Council: maybe best sent via your ward councillor – search at http://bit.ly/1RZqIju

- continue to contribute to the online forum on this site.

Anthony Rae

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