Mayor of West Yorkshire meets with flood experts as communities warned of wet winter ahead

The meeting was part of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to tackle the climate and environment emergency.

29 November 2021

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, has met with regional flood experts following a warning from the Met Office of an increased chance of a wet winter ahead. 

They visited a natural flood management site at Hardcastle Crags, in the Calder Valley, where a huge programme of work has been undertaken to work alongside flood barriers to better protect communities downstream from flooding. 

The meeting, with West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Yorkshire Water and the National Trust, was part of the Mayor’s ongoing manifesto commitment to tackle the climate and environment emergency.  

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, said: “Communities across West Yorkshire are living with the consequences of our changing climate, and the news that we’re probably facing yet another winter of heavy rain will be absolutely terrifying. 

“Not only does flooding have a devasting economic impact, but it also casts a huge shadow over peoples’ everyday lives – families are living with the constant fear that heavy rain could destroy their homes once again and businesses are left counting the cost and wondering if they should relocate. 

“That’s why it’s vital that we work together with our partners to invest in flood alleviation schemes to protect more communities.” 

Across West Yorkshire, £158 million has been invested in flood alleviation schemes, including a mix of natural and infrastructure works, since 2015 to better protect homes and businesses including in Mytholmroyd, on the River Calder, and Leeds, on the River Aire. 

Working with its partners, the Combined Authority has asked the Government for £120 million to fund a further 28 flood alleviation schemes around the region, as well as more natural flood management programmes.  

Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Resilience, said: “We were proud to showcase the local progress being made on flood resilience, as the borough’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis continues. Thanks to the relentless work of local communities, Council teams, partner organisations and the voluntary sector, we are now seeing greater protection for residents and businesses. 

“However, the risk of flooding is always present in Calderdale, and the devastation it causes is sadly one of the impacts of climate change that we continue to live with. We need more financial support and capacity to scale up our work, including nature-based solutions which we know are effective in slowing the flow of water into the bottom of the valley.” 

Adrian Gill, Area Flood Risk Manager at the Environment Agency said: “Climate change is increasing the frequency and the severity of floods everywhere and everyone needs to adapt and be aware of their risk. We continue to work with partners on a catchment wide approach to flood risk, using a combination of nature based solutions, adaptation, resilience as well as investment in flood defences.  

“We are ready for winter and prepared to respond to the impacts of flooding. We have trained staff ready to operate defences, pumps and barriers, and keep people safe.  Yet we can’t prevent all flooding, so it’s vitally important for the public to go online and check if they are at risk, sign up for Environment Agency warnings, and know what to do if flooding hits.” 

At Hardcastle Crags, volunteers from Slow the Flow, a natural flood management charity, have built more than 500 ‘leaky dams’ which prevent water from simply joining the main river channel, giving it time to be absorbed into the land. 

National Trust Countryside Manager, Rosie Holdsworth, said: "Reducing flood risk in Calderdale and across West Yorkshire is a key priority for the National Trust and our partners.  

“We focus on working with nature; restoring our upland soils, managing woodlands and planting trees. We've already achieved a huge amount at Hardcastle Crags, working alongside our partners Slow the Flow and the Environment Agency.  

“Working together on a landscape scale is key to the success of projects like this. We're grateful for the support from the Mayor, as well as from West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and look forward to working with them on future large-scale natural flood management projects." 

Richard Emmott, Director of Corporate Affairs at Yorkshire Water, said: "We know that collaboration is critical to protect communities from flooding and it is really positive that the Mayor's initiative should lead to the creation of West Yorkshire flooding and resilience partnership similar to those already established in Hull and South Yorkshire.  

“This is a great example of the sort of cross agency working which can be accelerated by leadership from an elected Mayor." 

West Yorkshire is working towards being a net zero carbon region by 2038 at the latest. For more information, please read the West Yorkshire Climate and Environment Plan.