The Environment Agency will share its plans for upgrading the Foss Barrier and seek views on options for reducing flood risk throughout the City of York at a public exhibition this week.
The exhibition will be at Hotel 53, Piccadilly, York on Friday 20 May (12pm – 7pm) and Saturday 21 May (10am – 5pm), and will be an opportunity for residents and businesses to comment on flood defence proposals.
Environment Agency and City of York Council staff will be on hand to discuss the proposals and give advice on flood resilience.
There will also be a chance to see copies of the Foss Barrier Investigation report, released last week, which explained how water got inside the Foss Barrier during the floods on 26 December.
In York, a further £45 million has been secured to upgrade York’s flood defences. The additional funding means that areas of York will gain further benefit from reduced flood risk over the next five years.
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.
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