There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a climate emergency, and in the past few months, flooding has swept through communities right around our country. It is becoming a tragic fact of life that more and more families and businesses are now experiencing the consequences of flooding.
In South Yorkshire, our residents know this reality all too well, as they saw their homes and businesses destroyed by the devastating floods of last November. More than 1,000 homes were affected and many families are still living in temporary accommodation. While the recovery effort is well under way, there is still an urgent need for ongoing support in many communities in South Yorkshire and around the country, and widespread flooding shows the stark reality facing us.
Unless we change our ways, the destruction caused by flooding and extreme weather will become the new normal. We cannot afford for that to happen. In South Yorkshire, we are developing strategies that will help to safeguard our environment. We are working to ensure that these devastating events are not repeated and that South Yorkshire’s resilience to flooding is strengthened. However, our efforts must be backed up by Government action. There are three steps that I would like the Government to take so that we can better protect residents and our communities in South Yorkshire.
First, there is an urgent need to invest in flood prevention and mitigation. Last week, I wrote to the Secretary of State to submit South Yorkshire’s flood priority programme. It is a bid for £271 million to substantially reduce flood risk right across South Yorkshire. Approving that in full would give 19 schemes the resources they need to plug funding gaps. It would provide additional resilience to our defences, and cover refurbishment and maintenance costs. I also propose an investment of £4 million in natural flood management, which would introduce upstream solutions that can slow the flow of water and reduce the risk to downstream areas. Let us be clear that this is the scale of ambition, funding and commitment that we need from the Government. They, of course, have a golden opportunity to deliver by funding our submission in full at next week’s Budget. My constituents have paid the price of flooding physically, financially and psychologically. The programme is not only credible, costed and comprehensive, but the right thing to do.
Secondly, the Government need to look again at the Green Book. They need to urgently look at the specific criteria used to make funding decisions about flood defences. The current criteria prioritise too much the value of the properties affected which, given the areas affected in recent floods in South Yorkshire, will make it much harder for them to compete for funding.
Thirdly, we must ensure that those who are affected by the risk of flooding have access to flood protection insurance. The Flood Re scheme has made a difference, but there is still work to do. We have heard Government Members talk about small businesses, but research published last week highlighted the gaps in Flood Re. It found that 70,000 homes are at risk of being left uninsurable in the future. Those affected by flooding—in South Yorkshire and right around the country—as a result of the most recent storms need to have the peace of mind that they will be able to secure insurance and that the insurance that they can secure is affordable.