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Emergency cash for flood repairs builds

Cumbria floods  2
  • £40M to rebuild and improve flood defences after Storm Eva, taking the government’s investment in recovery from Storms Eva and Desmond to nearly £200M.
  • £10M to improve the Foss Barrier protecting York, which was overwhelmed at the height of Storm Eva.
  •  £30M will be spent on flood defence repairs on the Wharfe, Calder, Aire, Ouse and Derwent rivers.

Government cash for flood repairs following a series of storms in late December and early January has continued to mount amid calls for a more strategic approach to flood defence spending.

Prime minister David Cameron this week announced a further package of more than £40M to rebuild and improve flood defences following Storm Eva, taking the government’s spending on Storm Eva and Storm Desmond recovery work to nearly £200M.

Storm Eva struck Yorkshire and the £40M will be spent on repairing the region’s flood defences. Cameron announced £10M of the new funding would be for improvements to the Foss Barrier protecting York, which was overwhelmed at the height of the storm.

The other £30M will be spent repairing defences on the Wharfe, Calder, Aire, Ouse and Derwent rivers. It will include repairs to pumps and barriers and clearing river b;lockages.

Further detailed work will be conducted along all rivers affected by Storm Eva – and the government said it was very likely the overall bill will top £40M once the full damage is identified.

Cameron said the £40M for Yorkshire was in addition to the £280M the government was already spending over the next six years to protect thousands of houses from flooding in Yorkshire as part of a £2.3bn investment to protect 300,000 houses across the country.

”But now more than £40M will be spent to fix those defences overwhelmed by the record rainfall we’ve seen in recent weeks and to make them more resilient to further bad weather,” he said.

The flooding response in Yorkshire will be overseen by transport minister Robert Goodwill, who has been appointed by the prime minister as flooding envoy to the county.

Goodwill has been tasked with understanding the impact of flooding in affected areas, and especially any weaknesses exposed. He will track progress towards recovery and assess the effectiveness of multi-agency joint working in affected areas and report his findings directly to the prime minister.

Goodwill’s work will complement that of flooding minister Rory Stewart who is focusing on Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland. Both will report into the Flood Recovery Committee chaired by communities and local government secretary Greg Clark.

Other government cash will go directly to households and businesses affected by the floods. Local authorities will distribute around £500 to each household affected, to help with temporary accommodation costs. It will also provide grants of up to £5,000 to help homeowners make their properties more flood resilient by installing new flood barriers, replacing doors and windows with water resistant alternatives, or moving electricity sockets up to a safer level.

Central government cash will also be made available under the Bellwin scheme for local authorities to repair flood damaged infrastructure.

Under this scheme, councils can apply to have 100% of their costs above an agreed threshold repaid by the government.

The government has also set aside £40M of funding to help repair flood-damaged roads and bridges in Cumbria and Lancashire.

Ministers said flood defences helped to protect 11,000 homes across the north of England. These defences also gave vital time for the evacuation of homes and businesses as reducing flood impact.

Over the next six years the government will invest £2.3bn in flood defences which is a real terms increase on the £1.7bn invested in the last Parliament. In addition, the government has said that flood maintenance spending will be protected in real terms over this Parliament.

Foss barrier

Environment Agency operational staff and the Army worked around the clock action to get the Foss barrier in York working after high river levels flooded the pump room and affected the power system.

The barrier forms part of the York’s city-wide defences and prevents the River Ouse from flowing back up the River Foss, but the Foss then needs to be pumped over the barrier to keep it flowing.

When the barrier’s controls were flooded, the barrier was raised to prevent it from being left down without power. Had the barrier remained down, flooding in the city would have been more widespread and more properties would have been flooded.

A Chinook helicopter was used to drop portable power generators onto the barrier’s roof yesterday to provide power for the pumps.

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