York Floods: Statement needed to reassure residents

The York Council would be right to take a few weeks to pull together a report on the recent flooding issues in the City.

It should not take the two years that the post 2012 floods report took to compile.

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But there is an urgent need to reassure residents about precisely what went wrong with the Foss barrier last weekend.

At the time the authorities claimed that the barrier was raised (prompting a 2 foot increase in the level of the Foss and the flooding of the Huntington Road area and telephone exchange)  because there were fears that water would damage the lifting equipment or the power supply.

In the cold light of day this seems an unlikely explanation, not least because the system had reserve generators which could be brought on line or, failing that, a manual lifting system.

We know that water from the Ouse was approaching the Foss from the Tower Street area (but it never actually over-topped the barriers).

So the issue presumably was an unprecedented run off into the Foss catchment area?

Tang Hall beck certainly did experience record levels.

  • Could the Foss barrier pumps not cope?
  • Were they all working to maximum capacity?
  • Why was the pumping station evacuated? (a new bridge to it was later provided by Army engineers)
The questions need to be answered quickly and publicly by the Environment Agency.

It isn’t a question of apportioning blame.

It is a matter of reassuring hundreds of residents and business owners that the cause of the problem is understood and, should another similar event occur this winter, that contingency plans have been upgraded.

After all we are now in a vulnerable position.
The ground is saturated guaranteeing that any rainfall will run off quickly into ditches and rivers..
Many previous floods have been caused by a combination of melting snow and localised rainfall.
Add in the already wet ground and the conditions for a “perfect storm” may already exist.

Local MPs and the Environment Agency must reassure residents without delay


That was the year that was – 2015 in York

  • As we welcomed the New Year local Tory Councillor Joe Watt announced his resignation from the Council Group. He was to lose his seat in May. It was to be the first of a series of major changes in local government in York during 2015.
  • There had been capacity problems at the York hospitals A&E departments
  • York Knights lost their training ground and were effectively homeless.Lendal Bridge closure Nov 2013
  • The York Council was rapped by Local Government Association inspectors in a public report.
  • The Lendal Bridge “automatic fine repayment” process was announced
  • Delays in upgrading the Central “Explore” library were set to cost taxpayers an extra £61k
  • The Council decided to “freeze” Council Tax levels.
  • Lowfields care village 2011 plans - now 3 years behind schedule
    Lowfields care village 2011 plans – abandoned in 2015
  • All existing Elderly Care homes in York would close by 2019. There was bad news about the future of the Lowfields school site which had been earmarked as a location for an elderly care village.
  • A campaign to invest £500,000 more in Council estate regeneration was launched by the LibDems against a background of problems with parking and deteriorating infrastructure.
  • A proposed York “traffic congestion commission” was shelved
  • Falling fuel prices meant that local taxi and bus fares should be reduced. No action resulted.
  • Confusing speed restriction signs on Green Lane
    Confusing speed restriction signs on Green Lane
  • The £6 million highways repair budget was divided up at a “behind closed doors” meeting
  • There had been a 91% increase in car parking charges in York during the previous 4 years
  • The Council was forced to admit that the introduction of 20 mph speed limits had had little impact. In some streets average speeds had actually increased since the signs were erected
  • The York Council was failing to repair 67% of street lighting faults within target time
  • Opposition to plans to charge £35 a year for emptying all “green” bins increased with over 1000 signing a petition. The idea was dropped when many of the policies supporters lost their seats at the Council elections in MayGreen bin petition
  • The Clifton Moor – Haxby Road cycle track (along the A1237) was finally opened
  • The Council lost its appeal against having to repay fines imposed on Coppergate. 
  • Labour retained the York Central parliamentary seat in the General Election. 350 Askham Lane Focus May 2015 page 1
  • However in the Council elections the LibDems swept to victory in both the Westfield and Dringhouses wards. Labour lost 9 seats and the Council was “hung” or “balanced”
  • Not for the first time St Helen’s Road was closed because of Yorkshire water works
  • Following the Council election results in York, a new coalition took over the running of the City. More transparency and public engagement wa promised although in reality this was illusive during the rest of the year. Priorities would change with vanity projects banished and more to be spent on basic services. However, by the start of 2016 the City was still committed to spending £10 million on a bridge into the York central site, £9 million on a Guildhall redevelopment plan and £8 million propping up the Community Stadium project.
  • York was disappointing 11th is a league table of foreign visitor numbers
  • After standing empty for over 2 years the Council decided to sell the  Oliver House home. It will become a set of retirement apartments
  • York Road page 1 click to enlarge
  • Tim Farron – who was latter to become Leader of the Liberal Democrats – visited Foxwood
  • The former airspeed factory and tram dept on Piccadilly was condemned as unsafe. It was later demolished
  • Developers applied to build houses in a copse of trees on Knapton Lane. The application was later refused planning permission
  • House prices in York rose strongly
  • The new Council decided to formally investigate the £187,000 lost on the TdF Grand Departy concert. A report was received 6 months later but most of those responsible for the mistakes had by then left the Council. 
  • Weeds started to overwhelm many public footpaths. The Council blamed its own contractors for failing to apply chemicals at the correct time.  
  • One of York’s new fleet of electric buses caught fire. 6 months later the cause of the fire has still not been explained


  • The Councils ward committee system – which devolves decisions to local communities was revived – with a £1 million potential budget. Community centres were also promised that a support grant would be reinstated.DT art gallery strike
  • Housing and benefits advice services in Acomb were discountined despite assurances given when the Acomb office closed
  • The York Art Gallery reopened and immediately became embroiled in a controversy about discount admission prices for York residents
  • There was a murder in Hamilton DriveOuse bridge parapet weeds small 27th Aug 2015
  • A new Quango “Make it York” got off to a bad start. They threatened to remove the Parliament Street fountain without any consultation. Later they were to ban children s entertainment rides from their annual St Nichols Fair.
  • Weeds threatened to overgrow Ouse Bridge…..as they had in 2014.
  • The Community Stadium had already cost £3.9 million. No building work had taken place.
  • York could’t decide  between North Yorkshre and West Yorkshire in the devolution debate. In the end they opted for neither.915 colour page 1  Chapelfields Focus Sept 15 A3
  • Micklegate closed for utility works (again)
  • Another Labour Council Group Leader quit. Janet Looker would be appointed the third Labour Council Group Leader in less than 12 months. Jeremy Corbyn became the party’s national Leader
  • Road traffic accident numbers increased
  • With the Huntington Stadium closed, the Council paid out £1/2 million for the Knights match-day and training facilities. The rugby club were not to play any matches at Bootham Crescent during 2015. By the end of 2015 no contracts for the construction of the new stadium had been let.
  • Acomb Library had its most successful year with record numbers visiting
  • The Council published new “housing” figures to inform the new Local Plan. It still failed to discuss how big it actually wanted the City to be.
  • The Council is criticised for continuing to make “behind closed doors” decisions. It struggled to even publish agenda before some matters were decided
  • Homeless numbers in York hit a record low
  • Page 1
  • The Council introduced a new “on line” issue reporting system. It flopped but a better system is promised for later in 2016
  • The City’s Lord Mayor attracted national attention for the wrong reasons. York City advertised for a new manager.
  • A new plan for the redevelopment of the Piccadilly area
  • The Council admitted that it was not measuring its own performance on many key public services
  • Unemployment levels hit a record low in the City. But average earnings were also down.
  • Concerns about Syrian refugees continued although 4 months after the crisis developed none have yet reached the City. The Press front page plumbed the depths of insensitivity as more details of the bombings in Paris emergedPress front page 17th Nov 2015
  • Delays in the reopening of the Theatre Royal had cost £3/4 million
  • Crime levels were starting to creep up
  • It was revealed that the Councils “free” newspaper “Our City” was costing taxpayers £40,000 a year.
  • Businesses voted to establish a Business Improvement District in York. It will add 1% a year to their rates bills.
  • A revised bus service map was published
  • Consultation started (again) on the York Central development1215 colour Chapelfields pages 2 and 3 Focus small Dec 15 A3
  • The Council launched a consultation on public service priorities and Council Tax levels amidst fears of a 3.9% rise.
  • Councillors were given a 15% pay increase.
  • A rat bit an elderly resident in a council care home

…….and then the floods came – the worst since 2000.

The Foss barrier failed, telecoms crashed and even river level gauges stopped working.

The failings had been forecast in a report on the 2012 floodings.

Flooded York. Levels now officially higher than 2012

Flooded York. Levels officially higher than 2012