Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 3:10 pm, 4th March 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Hudson.

As the Minister might be aware, the Humber is the region with the second largest area of floodplain in the UK, and Hull tops the list of local authorities with the largest number of homes classified as at high risk of flooding, at nearly 20,000 properties. We were very lucky this time, but back in 2007 we were not so lucky. The floods at that time devastated our city, causing over £40 million of damage.

The city council responded by working with Yorkshire Water to develop plans to retain as much water as possible before it runs down into the city. Recently, the area became the first to agree officially binding rules regarding sustainable drainage requirements. It is the first joint initiative of its kind in the UK, where an area has looked at solving the problem itself. The city council is also involved in tree planting and is looking at other natural ways to absorb as much water as possible. However, that will not solve all the problems.

I pay tribute to the previous MP for Scunthorpe, Nic Dakin, and the work that he did across the House to push the Government to support an initiative from the University of Hull to build a state-of-the-art national flood resilience centre at the Scunthorpe site. The plan has received cross-party support from Andrew Percy, among many others. The previous Secretary of State said that she would engage with people bringing forward a Bill and look at it seriously. The current Secretary of State said that he would be happy to meet the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole and others to discuss it. When the Minister sums up, I would like to hear how advanced the discussions are or when they will take place. Will she also give an update on the Government’s consideration of the University of Hull’s proposal to build a flood resilience centre, which would benefit everybody across the Humber?

The main point on which I want to focus the Minister’s mind today is the Lagoon Hull project, which again would benefit the whole of the Humber. I raised it on 24 February with the Secretary of State, and he said he would be happy to meet the promoters of the scheme. I would like to press the Minister to find a date for that and to tell her a little more about the project.

Hull is at risk of flooding not only due to water coming down, but from higher tides. The tidal barrier was very effective in 2013, after a tidal surge, but the water was within one inch of coming over the top. Some manufacturers were flooded because they were not protected.

The plans for Lagoon Hull are very ambitious. It is a £1.5-billion infrastructure scheme that would protect the city and region right into the 22nd century. It is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform the future of the area. The proposal is to create a lagoon by constructing a four-lane road that takes the A63 along a six-mile route into the estuary, from the docks in the east of the city to Hessle in the west. That would immediately benefit the whole of the front of the city of Hull by protecting it, while diverting traffic away from the city and easing all the problems of congestion. We are looking at the Government’s proposals for a free port in Hull, which we hope would generate more business for Hull port. If that happens, we will have to deal with the congestion problem, and this is one of the answers.

The lagoon project would provide more than 14,000 new jobs, new waterfront living and leisure opportunities, port expansion, and direct access for shipping to new deep-water quays. It could add £1 billion a year to the region’s economy through improved productivity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn Hull in a magnet city and the envy of the rest of the UK. I urge the Minister to look into the proposals in detail, meet the people behind the project, and talk to Members of Parliament from across the Humber about how this could benefit the whole area and protect our city against flooding not just now, but as we go forward into the future.