The weather has been atrocious. The good folk of West Yorkshire and those along the River Calder and Leeds particularly have suffered significantly, especially over Christmas and the New Year and for months following. Chucking out the old, negotiations with insurers, drying out and then putting back ones life takes months but in the meantime uncertainties prevail and sadness at losing precious personal belongings gives way to a resolve not to be beaten. That is the dogged Yorkshire attitude. A little heavy rain is not the issue. However, the persistent deluges which are now part and parcel, it would seem, of each winter are not the 1:100 year experience but a feature of our climate which seems always to be a possibility at this time of year.
Flooding is not just for Christmas. It is something for life in some areas and the solutions of dredging and bund building, while part of the solution, cannot work without more serious attempts to abate flow down the rivers in times of very heavy rain.
Flood plains, woodland and proper maintenance of goits and hillside channels must be invested in if some of our significant economic areas are not to become uninsurable and void.
The topography of our area is the clue. We are hilly. That means valleys and rivers and water tumbling down hillsides where poor maintenance has been the norm. The majority of our factories are located in the valleys and names like “Lowfields” and “River Street” also give a clue to the likelihood of trouble during flood events.
Hebden Valley, generally taking in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, seems to hit the news as often as York but this year Sowerby Bridge, West Vale, Brighouse and Mirfield copped for it too.
The authorities have done what they can in the short term and land owners have cooperated where they can too to help temporary structures to be built on private land pending permanent replacements in places like Elland where Elland Bridge was damaged beyond repair. £500,000 for a temporary pedestrian bridge and ten times that figure for a replacement bridge is the bill for just one location. How many more and what of the next time?
Whilst I am not a seamstress, the old adage, “a stitch in time saves nine” seems most apposite so why do we wait so long to deal with the obvious and why do we always end up paying more than we have to? And not just financially.
If we needed a wake-up call on the inter-dependence of economic activity and environmental considerations then the experience of December 2015 must surely have been it. We can’t just hope for the best; can we?
Written by: Mark S Hanson – BSc FRICS