Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Labour, Barnsley East 1:58 pm, 4th March 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Robertson, who spoke powerfully about his local area and made some important points about planning.

Last November, my community was hit by severe flooding that caused devastating damage to Barnsley, and across South Yorkshire. Over a 24-hour period, more rain fell than was expected for an entire month, causing mass disruption and damage. I pay tribute and give thanks to the blue-light services, the local authority, the Environment Agency, and the community groups, volunteers and local people who responded. My constituents now need assurances that everything is being done to protect their homes, businesses and community spaces from future floods.

One month ago, I led a Westminster Hall debate on flooding in South Yorkshire, voicing the concerns of people from my area. I called for investment in flood defences to make our region more resilient to flooding, and for the Prime Minister to make good on his commitment to convene an emergency summit on flooding in the north of England—he made that promise during the general election to the Mayor of the Sheffield city region, my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge his work on this issue.

Since November, Barnsley and its surrounding areas have been hit by two more storms, leading to more flood damage. Community groups are unable to meet owing to waterlogged and damaged venues. Indeed, one of the local football clubs, Worsbrough Bridge FC, still does not have a pitch to play on. Action is needed urgently if residents and business owners from my community are to feel safe and secure in the homes and businesses for which they have worked their entire lives.

The Government need to commit to giving short-term financial support to help those affected and to fund recovery efforts. Right now, flood victims are relying on the goodwill of their neighbours to get them through this flooding crisis. More than half a million pounds has been donated by members of the public, local authority groups and community organisations to the South Yorkshire Community Foundation. The fact that the Government will only match fund this is outrageous. They have undercut efforts to help communities, households and businesses to recover. This is despite the fact that the Mayors of Doncaster and the Sheffield city region have said that £3 million is needed.

I am proud to live in an area with so much community spirit. The generosity of my neighbours and friends, while not unsurprising, deserves recognition. This Friday, I am meeting the Low Valley flooding group, which comprises residents who have joined together to help each other and to look at what can be done to prevent future flooding. Flood victims need more funds now so that they can rebuild their lives, and the burden should not fall on the victims. In addition to short-term financial aid, we need sustained investment to protect homes and businesses from future extreme weather events.