Senior politicians have called on developers to pay for flood defence works in West Yorkshire – including Kirkstall – claiming it is “unfair” to expect local authorities to pick up the bill.
Members of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee met to discuss work to help protect the region from further floods, following the devastation caused by the 2015 Boxing Day floods.
Works to further protect West Yorkshire from flooding, known as the Flood Alleviation for Growth and Economic Resilience programme, has so far cost a total of £110m, with £20m of this coming from WYCA.
But Kirklees councillor Paul Kane called on the Environment Agency to put pressure on building companies to pay for flood defence work, claiming many large developments can exacerbate flood risk.
Coun Kane (Lab) told the meeting:
“Every time we have big developments come in, I find it amazing that the Environment Agency never comments on applications.
“Developers should be paying for flood alleviation plans.
“It is unfair that local authorities should pick up the bills. Developers should know what these developments are actually doing.
“We ask the Environment Agency for comments, and they are not forthcoming. I don’t understand it – you have an opportunity to put pressure on developers to make them pay.”
Rosa Foster from the Environment Agency said powers to put pressure on developers to put in flood defence measures lies with local authorities.
She said: “There are limits to what we can do and it relies on a strong working relationship between the Environment Agency and council officers.
“Those powers sit with the local authorities, not the Environment Agency.
“When we were involved in the flood review, we were pushing for a planning document that made it statutory.
“For surface water drainage, we are there to support where it is close to rivers, but we are genuinely restricted as to what we can do.”
Chairing the meeting, Kirklees councillor Robert Light (Con) said:
“I know the agency can’t comment on the levels of applications it used to.
“I think the key point is that the planning committees feel powerless when they don’t get any comment back.”
Ms Foster said: “We can’t look at the number that we used to.
“If there is a specific request, we would help where we can. Our work stream is under pressure.
“We suffer the same constraints as everyone else.”
Calderdale councillor Stephen Baines (Con) added: “Suggesting building underground reservoirs in the drainage system for the development of a certain site would help us to put those in place.
“When there is no comment, it doesn’t give us the strength to do it.
“Anything like that would help us to protect against major floods in future.”