Rachael Maskell, the MP for York Central, as well as the Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, has criticised the government’s recently published National Flood Resilience Review, saying that it would do little to reassure those in York affected by the December 2015 floods.
The review was supposed to be published before Parliament’s summer recess, but was delayed. Many in York and other flood-prone areas in the north of England are concerned that the lateness will mean that the recommended changes will not be implemented in time for winter, which is when future floods would be most likely to strike. There has also been public dissatisfaction with the £12.5 million budget allocated for temporary flood defences, with many arguing that it is simply inadequate given the scale of past flooding.
In her press release, Maskell agreed with many of these sentiments, saying that the government had displayed “a lack of…understanding” of the devastation the recent floods had caused, in particular “the human cost”. She reiterated:
“Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes… and 500 homes along the Ouse, the Foss, Tang Hall Beck and Osbaldwick Beck were flooded. Also many businesses in the city centre were flooded and some of these have still not reopened nine months down the line. Sadly, some never will.”
She also cited specific examples of actions taken by the government which would harm the country’s flood defences, and thus increase the likelihood of incurring future damage:
“Prime Minister Theresa May has scrapped the roles of the two flood envoys, who were appointed to oversee flood response in the affected areas of 2015… Theresa May has also scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change which deals with one of the primary causes of increased flood risk. The need for a full uplands management programme will now not be addressed until 2021. Parts of the moors in Yorkshire are being maintained for grouse shooting and they have lost their naturally absorbent bogs which act as a drainage system. This means that these “intensively managed” areas are contributing towards the level of water running off the moors in heavy storms and causing further flooding.”
However, Maskell asserted that she was pleased that the government had decided to implement the £17 million upgrade of the Foss Barrier, which she had campaigned for. Work on the Barrier has now begun, and will increase the pumping capacity from 30T/Sec of water to 50T/Sec of water.