Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Graham Stuart MP (FL MP 09)

  Thank you for your letter dated 24th July. I am delighted that your committee will be examining the recent flooding when the House returns.

  The East Riding of Yorkshire has been devastated by the floods. Four towns in my constituency—Beverley, Hornsea, Withernsea and Hedon—have been affected, along with many village communities in between, such as Thorngumbald and Ottringham. At one stage, residents of Hornsea were cut off entirely by flood waters.

  During the initial downpour, the local area received one sixth of its annual rainfall in 12 hours. Humberside Fire and Rescue Service received more than 3,000 phone calls and the Police received a further 4,800 calls. According to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, 5,700 homes have been affected. In my constituency, the most conservative estimate is that at least 1,200 homes have been flooded.

  Much went right with the response operation. All the agencies involved worked incredibly hard to deal with the emergency and individual staff went above and beyond what could be reasonably expected of them. Communities came together to help out their neighbours.

  The following are issues that I think could usefully be investigated by your committee:

    1.  Flood Rescue. No one agency is responsible for flood rescue. This duty, in my opinion, should be given to the fire service. This may not need to be a statutory responsibility so long as a decision is taken and funding is provided. Officers should not enter water again in equipment designed purely for fighting fires. Mazen Khuri (Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Humberside Fire & Rescue Service) has helped establish a scheme for marine rescue which, he believes, could be used as a model for flood rescue. Perhaps he could be asked to contribute.

    2.  Maintenance of drains and outlets by the Environment Agency (EA). Internal Drainage Boards including the Beverley & Holderness IDB believe that the failure of the EA to carry out proper maintenance contributed to the length and extent of floods caused by overtopping of drains such as Burstwick Drain. The EA say that lack of maintenance, the failure of outlet doors and the non-installation of pumps made no material difference. This dispute needs to be resolved.

    3.  Protection of critical infrastructure. Power, sewage and other systems need to be more resilient to flood threats.

    4.  Need for a central register of drainage pumps. No one in the East Riding knew where they all were and who owned them.

    5.  Responsibility Gaps. Identify any areas in addition to flood rescue where responsibility is not clearly assigned to a specific agency or agencies.

    6.  Call handling. What can be done to improve ability of emergency services to cope with huge spikes in calls? Evaluate likely impact of regional call centres and loss of local control over asset use and priority setting for the fire service.

    7.  Emergency planning. Does this need to be more ground up rather than top down? Should parish and town councils have their own plans in place?

    8.  Flash floods. Flash floods and the failure of sewers to cope with them is little understood. Should there be increased research and does one agency need to be made responsible for all surface water issues?

  I hope these points are of use and that you have a successful inquiry.

Graham Stuart MP

Beverley and Holderness

September 2007

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