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Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the immediate cost of repairs following Storm Dennis to be around £10m

Herefordshire Council has written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request an extension to the Bellwin scheme and to request further “vital support” from central government following February’s unprecedented flood events.

The letter dated 28 February 2020 was signed by Herefordshire Council’s Chief Executive Alistair Neill, Leader of the Council Councillor David Hitchiner and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Transport Councillor John Harrington.

In the letter, it was stated that the cost of repairs following Storm Dennis is currently estimated to be around £10m. A three month extension to the Bellwin period has been requested to account for the scale of flooding and assessing its impact.

As of 3 March 2020, 405 residential and 102 business properties are understood to have been affected by February’s flood event. It was argued that the government could do more to support the recovery operation and the financial consequences of responding to the major incident caused by widespread flooding.

Chief Executive of Herefordshire Council, Alistair Neill, said:

“Herefordshire has been severely impacted by Storm Dennis with more than 507 residential properties and businesses affected by flooding at the latest count. In response to this major incident and as part of the multi-agency response, Herefordshire Council has mobilised its resources, alongside those from our communities, to keep our residents safe. We are continuing to clean up the county and this recovery operation will have to continue for some time. Clearly, both the council and the community that it serves, is now left with the financial consequences of the widespread flooding. It is good that the government has activated the Bellwin Scheme and various grants for those affected, but we believe the government can do much more. Herefordshire Council would welcome the opportunity to work together with government to deliver the support that our community deserves, both in recovery from this storm and in our progress towards a more resilient future.”

 

Leader of Herefordshire Council, Councillor David Hitchiner, said:

“The Community Flood Recovery Grant is welcome financial support from central government, but £500 for a residential property that has flooded will hardly cover the immediate cleaning up of a property. In the long-term, residents face difficulties and expense when arranging insurance and this will have a huge impact on the less well off, elderly or vulnerable people who are in greatest need of additional support. Financial support for businesses is insufficient to save some business from failing entirely due to the impact of flooding. Herefordshire’s economy relies on a huge number of SMEs, and offering business rate free periods does not help a small business that is under the valuation threshold and therefore does not pay rates. Farmers are also suffering from the flood impact as they cannot cultivate their land, or have had crops destroyed by flood waters. As a sector they are often ignored as attentions are focused on alleviating the impact of flooding in the country’s cities. We want the government to offer additional financial support to residents, business and the agricultural sector to help them overcome the impact of this unprecedented flood event. While these were unprecedented levels of flooding for Herefordshire, we need to accept that the climate emergency brings with it greater likelihood of flooding and extreme weather. We need to address our planning, housing, farming methods and flood defences to help us prepare for the future.”

 

Councillor John Harrington, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Transport, said:

“Bellwin is restrictive in covering all genuine recovery costs. There is significant damage to the highway network, which in a county as large as Herefordshire means significant pressure put on our budgets which is not covered by Bellwin. The damage places a significant strain on a rural community that is dependent on its local roads to go about daily life. The scope of Bellwin needs urgent review to cover more infrastructure costs if the impact of Storm Dennis is not to unduly impair Herefordshire’s ability to thrive. A huge capital investment is now required in our Herefordshire highways to address the impairment, in what is also a nationally important asset, our local roads. We anticipate the bill for repairing the immediate impact of Storm Dennis to be around £10 million, for which we have no provision. Looking to the future, more infrastructure funds need to be made available in the longer-term for the management of bridges, roads and drainage assets that have been put under severe pressure by not only this storm, but the events that are yet to come. After many years of reductions in revenue funding at local and national level, we estimate that £3m a year is needed to plug the shortfall in current available funding. In Herefordshire, there is also huge scope for extending flood defences along both the main rivers and into the many tributaries that feed them. It is the time to seriously look at the funding criteria for flood defences to enable fair investment in the defence our rural communities, market towns and Hereford itself. Now is the time for the government to revisit the scheme, increase investment and ensure fairness in its distribution between urban and rural communities.”

The open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been published on the Herefordshire Council website.

Published: Tuesday, 3rd March 2020