UK floods: ‘Complete rethink’ needed on flood defences – EA

UK floods: ‘Complete rethink’ needed on flood defences – EA

There needs to be a “complete rethink” of the UK’s flood defences following unprecedented flooding across northern England, the Environment Agency says.

Deputy chief executive David Rooke said increasing resilience and improving warning systems were vital in the face of future “extremes” in weather.

Christmas downpours left parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester inundated after rivers at record levels burst their banks.

The PM is due to visit flood-hit areas.

The Environment Agency has nearly 30 severe flood warnings, meaning danger to life, in place for north-east and north-west England, with more than 180 other flood warnings and alerts in England and Wales.

On Sunday, the government said 200 soldiers were being deployed to affected areas in addition to 300 already on the ground.

A further 1,000 personnel are being held in reserve in case the situation gets worse.

Although Monday will be drier than the weekend, more heavy rain is forecast for the middle of the week.

Record levels

In York, one of the worst-hit areas where hundreds of properties have been at risk, the River Ouse is now thought to have stabilised.

City of York Council said plans for further evacuations would not now happen.

During his visits, Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to face questions about government funding of flood defences after Environment Secretary Liz Truss said some had been “overwhelmed”.

Mr Cameron said the “level of the rivers plus the level of rainfall has created an unprecedented effect, and so some very serious flooding”.

‘Nightmare’ flooding hits York

In pictures: Flooding devastation

Many places have seen record river levels over the past 24 hours, including the River Aire in Leeds, and the rivers Calder and Ribble, affecting places such as Whalley, Hebden Bridge and Ribchester.

Police line down

City of York Council said about 500 properties had been directly affected by flooding and a second rest centre was being opened for residents.

Spokesman Charlie Croft confirmed that river waters in the city appeared to have peaked, telling the BBC: “We have to say that we are still in the middle of a major incident, though tentative positive news is that the river may now have stopped rising at this point.”

As well as soldiers and emergency services, about 200 unpaid mountain rescue volunteers from Wales, Cornwall and the Lake District have been helping in the city.

In other developments:

  • Flooding has affected phone lines in York – including the non-emergency police number 101 – and people are advised to call 01609 768 182 instead
  • North Yorkshire police say they received 278 emergency calls on Boxing Day when it would normally be 190, and 388 on 27 December
  • In Leeds, 1,000 homes have been flooded
  • Police say the flood operation in Greater Manchester has now turned into a “recovery” phase, with water levels falling
  • In Rochdale, Bury and Radcliffe more than 1,000 homes are still without power. Emergency generators are being used, but Electricity North West has urged people to switch off Christmas lights to save electricity
Flooding in YorkImage captionHundreds of properties have been affected in York

Emergency funding

Downing Street said emergency financial assistance would be available to homes and businesses in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

They will have access to the support package announced earlier in the monthfor people affected by Storm Desmond in Cumbria.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said flood-damaged infrastructure – including the A591 through the heart of the Lake District – would be repaired using £40m of emergency government funding.

Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn, who described the flooding as the worst he had seen in the centre of the city, called for increased investment, saying climate change was bringing wetter winters.

Huntingdon Road and Yearsley Crescent in York covered by floodwater on 27 December 2015Image captionHuntingdon Road and Yearsley Crescent in York were left under several feet of water

The Met Office has issued yellow (be aware) warnings for rain on Wednesday in areas of northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bringing the threat of further flooding.

Amber (be prepared) warnings for rain are in place for parts of Scotland on Wednesday too. There are currently no flood warnings in Scotland.

People can access information from council websites and the Environment Agency Floodline.

The agency is also operating a phone line – 0345 988 1188 – which will be staffed rather than offering recorded information.


Timeline: December flooding

5 December: Storm Desmond brings more than a month’s rain to parts of Cumbria, leading to flooding in Carlisle and other areas

12 December: River levels remain high and more than 70 flood warnings are issued amid more heavy rain

22 December: Communities in Cumbria flood again – some for the third time in less than a month

25 December: More than 100 flood alerts and warnings are issued across England and Wales as Storm Eva brings torrential rain

26 December: Residents in West Yorkshire and Lancashire are evacuated from their homes and flooding hits Leeds, Greater Manchester and York

27 December: Police in York advise hundreds of people to evacuate their homes as severe flood warnings remain in place in northern England


Live flood warnings from the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Note: the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency display their flood alert data differently. While the Environment Agency highlights individual rivers only, in Scotland the entire region is coloured to indicate the level of alert. This map and flood alert data are supplied to the BBC by third parties. The BBC is not responsible for its accuracy and you use it at your own risk.

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