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Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:14 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:14 pm, 4th March 2020

That is correct, and the national Coal Authority sits within BEIS. We have directed it to carry out an urgent assessment of those mines.

The area that was worst affected by Storm Ciara was the Calder valley. Hebden Bridge flooded after Storm Ciara, but not after Storm Dennis. Many businesses there have adapted their buildings to flooding, which were back trading after a few days or weeks. The military were deployed to Ilkley in West Yorkshire, where 700 metres of temporary barriers were erected. They also worked in the Calder valley, building a temporary defence and sandbagging properties. The scheme in Mytholmroyd is due to be completed this summer, and further schemes are in the design and consultation phase at Hebden Bridge, Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge and other locations along the Calder valley.

The area most severely affected by Storm Dennis was the Severn catchment. Since 2007, many parts of the Severn have been protected by demountable barriers. Those barriers are deployed to hard standings and permanent pillars along the river bank and removed when the risk of flooding recedes, so that people can gain access to the river for cycle paths and to prevent views from being affected. Those demountable barriers have been particularly popular with communities and have been effective during this most recent episode. While some homes were flooded, the defences put in place have protected around 50,000 homes.

Tenbury Wells was the first place to be affected by Storm Dennis and had previously flooded in October. Soon after flood alerts were issued, community information officers assisted residents in the town. Sadly, the area of Tenbury is not suitable for temporary barrier deployment due to the length of defence needed, significant access issues and the need for pumps to mitigate water seepage on uneven ground. However, in our future programme, we are developing plans to deliver a scheme at Tenbury Wells protecting over 80 homes and 80 businesses and costing in the region of £6 million, and we are seeking partnership funding to develop that phased approach. My hon. Friend Harriett Baldwin and the local county councillor have been keen advocates of the proposed scheme and have discussed it with me.

In Selby, where there were concerns about water over- topping a flood retention bank, the Army were on standby but, in the event, Environment Agency and local authority staff deployed 3,000 sandbags to top up the defences, build the bank higher and ensure that there was protection.

Turning now to Shrewsbury and Bewdley, where demountable barriers along the Severn played an important role in reducing the impacts, there are four phases of demountable barriers deployed to protect infrastructure and properties in Shrewsbury, and all were deployed in time for Storm Dennis. In Bewdley, we also deployed demountable barriers to complement the permanent defences and temporary barriers in part of the town. Environment Agency staff were present throughout the flooding, checking those barriers and pumping water back into the river.