Flooding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Labour, Halifax 3:38 pm, 4th March 2020

It is a great relief to be called in a closing minutes of this debate. I will be echoing the sentiments aired by my constituency neighbour, Craig Whittaker, in the time I have.

The first thing we need from the Government is flexibility around the resilience grant. A majority of those flooded in 2020 also flooded in 2015. The resilience grants announced as a package of measures nine days after Storm Ciara state that people who claimed a resilience grant four years ago will not be eligible this time. I understand that from Whitehall that might seem logical, but I am afraid it is incredibly short-sighted, given the reality in Calderdale. In some instances, resilience measures paid for by the 2015 grants were damaged in this flood and need replacing. It is also worth bearing in mind that advances in resilience measures have been made since 2015 and so enhanced protection could be possible. Surely there should also be an option for groups of properties to pool their grants to invest in further external flood defences, as was the case in Earby in Pendle, where the local authority made a claim on behalf of residents and used the money to fund flood defences for the whole community.

Secondly, I ask that Calderdale—along with the constituency of the hon. Member for Calder Valley—is granted tier 1 status based on national risk assessment criteria, in recognition of our ongoing management of flood risk. Calderdale is having to find in the region of £3 million from its annual budget every year to commit to ongoing flood mitigation work, and I am asking the Government to recognise this and match it. That would allow us to deliver enhanced ongoing maintenance work on clearing drains and gullies, and to have a dedicated flood response team. It would allow the council to work with the Environment Agency to deal with the massive issues of orphaned assets and of culverts, which, as we have heard repeatedly, are in a state of disrepair. It would also support efforts to manage the really significant emotional and mental stresses of those living with the risk of flooding.

We also need match funding for the Community Foundation for Calderdale’s flood appeal. In 2015, the Government did match fund the money raised by the Community Foundation. We have already heard from my hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock, who is frustrated that the Government are not going further when they are match funding the moneys raised in South Yorkshire. We have not even had the commitments in Calderdale to match fund the work done by the Community Foundation. It has been incredibly proactive and innovative in coming up with the Flood Save and Watermark schemes in Calderdale, but the only way the Community Foundation will be able to help everybody, on the back of what we have faced in this crisis, is if the Government step up and match fund that fundraising.

Another part of the jigsaw is the use of reservoirs as a means of mitigating flood risk. I will be tabling amendments to the Environment Bill on this issue, and I am glad to hear that they will have cross-party support from the Back Benches. I hope that the Secretary of State will look favourably on those amendments as we seek to use reservoirs as a means of mitigating flood risk, which will be incredibly important for residents in Calderdale.