Julian’s York Press Column: Flooding and Reflections on the Conservative Party Conference
October 5, 2016
As we edge closer to winter and the first anniversary of last December’s flooding, despite the current weather, I am sure many people’s minds will turn to the danger of flooding and memories of the terrible disruption experienced by many local residents and businesses over the Christmas period last year. Residents will also want reassurance about plans City of York Council and the Government have for managing this issue, and that their concerns will be listened to and acted upon. I am working to make sure they receive this, and as part of this effort last Friday I held a public meeting for residents of Acaster Malbis to discuss ongoing flooding issues, and those of surrounding communities like Naburn. The Council flood risk manager, and representatives from Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency, responsible for maintaining flood defences and safe riverbanks, were there to listen to concerns and receive an update on what has been done to maintain and improve the area’s flood resilience.
After listening to residents, the Council will be looking into improving emergency signage for drivers affected by road closures caused by flooding and keeping drains and gullies clear. Yorkshire Water were pressed for more investment into their local infrastructure, and I will be raising the importance of continual thorough riverbank maintenance by the Environment Agency with the Flooding Minister. Meetings like this underline the importance of having a whole river flooding defence strategy that provides essential protection for all communities. New defences in major urban centres, like ongoing improvements to ensure the Foss Barrier never fails again, are obviously vital and must go ahead. But we must also never forget about the equal need to protect smaller neighbourhoods like Acaster Malbis and Naburn.
I was encouraged to see Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs mentioning York in her speech this week at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. This makes clear that the new administration are well aware of the flooding we have suffered and it also shows that there are no excuses for inaction.
Last month, the government published its National Flood Resilience Review a national ‘stress test’ of infrastructure and flood response plans. I will build on the awareness raised by this review to continue campaigning for the maintenance and improvement of flood defences across the York area, and to press Ministers to continue delivering the flood security our community needs.
The Government is spending a record £2.5bn on 1,500 schemes which will better protect 300,000 homes across the country. Furthermore, I have long argued that more focus is needed to ensure that communications infrastructure is more resilient to flooding and I am pleased that this issue is finally being addressed.
Naturally, the Prime Minister’s speech gained the most attention and I was impressed by the directness of her address. Theresa May made clear that she is not in her position to serve as a ‘diligent technocrat’ tasked with untangling our membership of the European Union, but has a clear and positive vision for the future of Britain based on the values of fairness and community. She emphasised the need for government to step in to make sure economic prosperity benefits everyone, and the duty of the state to stick up for ordinary families.
Mrs May addressed a number of issues that are frequently raised with me on the doorsteps in York Outer such as younger people getting on the housing ladder and investment in our NHS. Furthermore, many of my constituents would be pleased to hear her commitment to improving broadband connection in rural areas and supporting small businesses.
This conference season has certainly been anything but bland. The Liberal Democrat pitch for ‘the progressive ground’ abandoned by Labour seemed to fizzle out before it really got going, and Labour spent most of their efforts fighting between themselves as their MPs now plan how to go about serving under a leader that the vast majority of them have no confidence in. Whilst we heard a lot of talk about ‘ideology’ and ‘electability’ at these conferences, only the Conservative gathering offered a coherent and deliverable plan for creating jobs, keeping our country safe, and supporting hardworking people.