Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has pressed the government to live up to its commitments on flood prevention in South Yorkshire – and accelerate them to help soften the economic shock from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter sent to the government today, Mayor Jarvis said: “Accelerating the delivery of this funding would provide vital protection to many homes, families and businesses, help us adapt to our changing climate and act as a crucial economic stimulus in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The November floods had a devastating impact across many parts of South Yorkshire, with almost 1,000 homes and 560 businesses affected and many still facing repair work or unable to return home. Coronavirus has added to the problems facing communities already hard-hit by the floods.
“It is urgent that we do everything we can to stop devastating floods hitting again. We cannot let the people of South Yorkshire down,” Mayor Jarvis said.
Mayor Jarvis reminded the government of the Prime Minister’s commitment to hold a Flooding Summit to bring together local authorities, government, and agencies to create a plan for flood defences in South Yorkshire and across the North of England, including South Yorkshire’s Don river valley.
“The government is rightly focusing much of its energy on the Covid-19 crisis, but the Government has to follow through on their commitments. It is now seven months since the Prime Minister promised to hold a flooding summit so we can take more coordinated and effective action. The clock is ticking.”
The Mayor welcomed plans to double the amount of Government investment into flood defences to £5.2 billion from 2021. But he called for the money to be spent in close collaboration with devolved authorities like the Sheffield City Region, which had developed a detailed programme for prevention and resilience works based on local knowledge and consultation. The programme would protect 2,826 businesses and 10,365 residential properties from flooding – representing a positive economic impact of more than £1.7bn in direct damages avoided alone.
Mayor Jarvis continued: “It’s not just about the amount of money, it’s how it is spent. We need to do this in a way which reflects local priorities and concerns and helps our local economy and environment.
“Approaches like Natural Flood Management and a major tree-planting programme will not only reduce our flood risks but create jobs, improve the quality of life in our neighbourhoods, reduce our carbon impact, and create new natural habitats.”
With Covid-19 set to hit the local economy hard, there is an urgent case for speeding up flood prevention plans, Mayor Jarvis argued.
“Intelligent flood prevention work is exactly the sort of spending we should be doing in response to this crisis,” he said.
“We have to make sure the major public spending that is so obviously needed to help keep the economy afloat actually produces some long-term good. We can aim so much higher than just returning to the status quo.
“Now is exactly the time to put people to work on transforming our region and our economy. We have to build back better – and what better way than ensuring we never see the devastation caused by these floods again.”