Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:51 pm, 4th March 2020

On Boxing day 2015, Riverside Drive and Beaver Chase in Prestolee and Stoneclough in my constituency suffered severe flooding from the rising waters of the River Irwell during unprecedented high rainfall. Some 57 properties were affected and residents were forced to flee their homes. Properties were severely damaged and vehicles written off. The Environment Agency has worked very hard to come up with a proposal for the flood defences. It is now four years since those major floods and the proposed flood defences have still not been installed. The residents believe the Government are not prioritising them because they are prioritising schemes with larger numbers of properties, so Prestolee keeps getting pushed back further.

Following meetings with local residents and the Environment Agency, I wrote a letter to the Minister who is in her place today on 4 February this year, urging her to provide the funding needed to complete the defence work in my constituency. I have yet to receive a response.

On Sunday 9 February, Riverside Drive was flooded again, this time affecting 22 properties. Right now the residents’ wrecked belongings are piled up in their gardens. Some residents are living in the upstairs of their homes as the downstairs is uninhabitable, and others are forced to stay in hotels. Many residents feel trapped; they are unable to remortgage or sell their homes.

The damage caused to the river bank is such that if the river levels rise again, the estate will be flooded again, and there have been several flood alerts since the flood in 2015. Every time there is rainfall the residents get very anxious and worried about what may happen. It is causing a lot of them mental distress.

Both the residents and the Environment Agency are keen to get construction of the flood defences under way as soon as possible, and there are no technical difficulties in doing that. However, until the funding is made available no work can be commenced, and even if the funding was granted today, the first set of work would not be able to start until spring 2021. We do not know how many more rainfalls there may be, and obviously people are incredibly distressed about this.

It is difficult to install temporary defences due to the fact that there is a lack of space. The ideal solution is to build flood walls on both sides of the river, as some properties on the right bank also flooded in 2015. However, a flood wall on the left bank adjacent to Riverside Drive is far more urgent. The Environment Agency informed me that it would cost in the region of £4 million for walls on both banks of the river or £3 million for the left bank alone.

In just one week residents have collected 2,876 signatures on a public petition, and I hold those signatures and the petition in my hand now. I will be presenting the petition this afternoon at the end of proceedings. The petition urges the Government to fully fund our defences. I therefore ask the Minister to commit to the money that is required to build them in my constituency.

We have all heard about the fact that—and everyone recognises this—with climate change we are going to have more and more and more rain; it is not going to lessen. There is going to be more and more flooding and devastation. More and more people and properties are going to be affected. So why do the Government not take the bull by the horns? All the areas in the United Kingdom that have been affected by the floods and are going to be repeatedly affected by floods must be provided with the money they need now, so as to prevent future damage. It makes no sense not to do that. It would help to regenerate our economy if these contracts were provided and it would rebuild areas, so in every aspect this is a win-win-win. I really do not want to see the sadness and the devastation on my constituents’ faces again, so I urge the Minister to grant us the funding that we need to construct the walls on the two banks.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to the residents of Prestolee, especially Karen Smith, who helped organise the petition, to the Environment Agency, which has helped and done a great amount of work, and to all the emergency services. So again, at the risk of sounding like a broken tape recorder, I say: please can we have £5 million for our flood defences?