Small ads

Floods: the politics

From Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Firstly, well done to Andrew and Barry for reaching a sensible compromise. I'm in the parade this year with my daughter and am now much more likely to make the mile trip to Mytholmroyd Gala which was really good last year.

But shame on Lib Dem Jade S for trying to make political capital out of the weekend's nightmare.

The only reason there was potential clash was it would have been utterly inappropriate to have a parade this weekend going down a street with ruined businesses. Many of us were also more concerned with clearing up the mess the floods left.

It was not some bizarre conspiracy by Hebden Royd Town Council to stick it to the people of Mytholmroyd. It was a change forced by unprecedented circumstances and as always round here a compromise was reached.

I'm getting tired of this bizarre Lib Dem (non) campaign for independence for Mytholmroyd cos they get nothing from Hebden Royd and it is quite wrong of Jade S to bring it up in this context.

It is worth pointing out the two towns are a mile apart and there isn't an invisible force field preventing Mytholmroyd residents using the cinema within walking distance in Hebden. Equally people from both towns will be in the Parade and at the Gala.

From Jim Creak

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Moor burning and drainage is costing you millions and bringing you misery through flooding every year and the people of calderdale should be concentrating your efforts on stopping the abuse of our moorlands.

There is a misunderstanding that all uplands should be burned and that is not true. Walshaw Moor is a blanket bog habitat, a type which has never been typically burned for grouse. It is only in recent years that the tradirionally burned areas on thin soils have extended to burning this climax and internationally rare ecosystem. Burning destroys the ability for this habitat to form sphagnum peat which soaks up rainfall and protects your homes from the floods we have just experienced.

See the discussion in the recent Management of local moorlands thread which pre-dated Friday's flood - Ed

From Fran R

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Let's not spoil the fabulous compromise reached re the two parades. It was I who asked the local councillors for help in alerting everyone to the fact that both parades were scheduled for the same day and time.

a) because I love both events


b) because it was highly probable lots of families would have made preparations to be in both parades.

Sincere thanks to everyone who helped reach the compromise.

From Paul Clarke

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Fran, quite right.

I'm glad our local councillors helped sort this out as they often get unfair criticism.

I'd actually forgotten that people might be in both parades which makes this sensible compromise even more important.

Hopefully next year there won't be a biblical deluge and both events will go ahead on different weekend as planned.

From Rogel N

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Richard Benyon MP says ""It is very difficult to create an effective flood defence system that can cope with a months rain in a few hours. The devastating stories I have heard in Hebden Bridge, I don't think anything could have prevented that." The only crumb of comfort he can give is that there are funds available to help the victims of such disasters.

But surely this isn't good enough. We have had several serious floods in the last twenty years, and we are repeatedly told that floods of such magnitude only occur every 100 years. This is patent nonsense.

Climate change certainly seems to be contributing to the problem, but it will be hundreds of years, if at all, before we will see the results of any effort we make to counter climate change.

There is something we can do immediately, which would have a virtually instantaneous effect on the problem. As Jim Creak so rightly says, the solution to the problem lies not in the valleys but in the surrounding moorland. Drainage of uplands - carving trenches to channel the water into the valley - means that rain is not held in the in the uplands by the natural bogs and wetland.

The rain falls, and is immediately taken down into streams and ultimately the river Calder. Why is this drainage being done? Well simply to allow a few people to be able to shoot more grouse.

All the talk at the moment seems to be concerned with the effects of flooding not the causes. We ignore what is happening in our uplands at our peril. As continuing drainage on our moors takes place, the problem in the Calder Valley will only get worse, and with it, the unnecessary suffering of so many people and businesses.

From Paul Clarke

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Do you really think our esteemed MP will understand any of this?

From Harry H

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The peat cover is now badly degraded, to rebuild it is a slow process, it means re-seeding the sphagnum, and holding the water in place to make it boggy. Pennine prospects watershed project are working on this. They are also trying to create a better environment for wildlife, including the twite, a small red list endangered bird.

The original landscape - pre sheep - would I think have been bog, stunted scrub, and patches of heather and rushes, a mosaic of ground cover.

It seems as though there are lots of competing interests on the Tops, and because we are not part of a National Park, we are a largely unprotected upland area, open for exploitation.

People may be interested that a number of planning applications have just gone in for Walshaw, which seem to point to further expansion on the moors.

From John Billingsley

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Just one point no one seems to have made yet - haven't the floods made clear the vulnerability of this site for a development like the one proposed?

From Charles Gate

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Prime Minister in Calderdale today. Prime Minister, tell Calderdale Council to stop building on flood plains.

Charles Gate
Green Party candidate
Warley ward by-election,
July 19th 2012

From Neti P

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Some questions....

Was the flood defence system in operation on Friday? If so, what happened, is the system unsuitable for the purpose? If not in operation, why?

Were sandbags delivered to Hebden Bridge? If not, why?

What are the plans to restore the towpath? Who is responsible for the repairs? (a local town councillor recently told me that HRTC have jurisdiction) How long before the towpath is opened?

As the towpath to the local water point at Callis has been deemed dangerous, what, if any, plans are there to assist those unable to access clean fresh water?

What plans are in place if further torrential rain occurs?

Replies from members of the Town Councils or CART (the new BW ) warmly welcomed.

PS. Here is a link to the Met Office regional weather warnings page .
Today W Yorkshire, along with many other places has an amber warning= Be Aware

From Neti P

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A disappointing lack of response to the above questions, and a missed opportunity to lay the urban myths that are naturally developing to rest.
It maybe that the answers are not yet available which is understandable if more time is needed. Creating a wall of silence however, does little to enable community confidence.

From Harry H

Friday, 6 July 2012

Was the flood alleviation outlet used in Tod park during the flood?

Maybe I am naive listening to local stories, but I have now heard four versions of the "Only one person had the key to the outlet valve in Tod park!" Was this true?

Was the key:-

"In Wakefield" -"In Huddersfield." -"In Halifax"-"Taken on holiday." - or None Of The Above?

From Charles Gate

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Every Councillor and every senior Council Officer in Calderdale needs to read the Pitt Review of the 2007 floods and act on the recommendations.

They should also understand where Climate Change is leading us.

Charles Gate,
Green Party Candidate Warley Ward by-election


From Graham Barker

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Charles - Valid though references to the Pitt Review etc may be, I'm not sure that right now is the time to be pushing 'I told you so' stuff on people trying to deal with the practical and psychological aftermath of flooding. Some sensitivity to priorities is needed, I think.

From Tim B

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Graham - if it doesn't get pushed now it will get forgotten . . . until next time. Its good that extra funds have been found to help with the clean up and that many people have given time voluntarily to help. What is also needed is help to adapt the properties that are repeatedly innundated so that they are more flood resilient.

From Mick Coughlan

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Graham could this be a case of one man's "I told you so" being another man's "What can we do to stop this in future"?

Pitt comes out unequivocably against building on flood plain as one thing that led to the floods in Tewksbury etc. Here in Calderdale, our planning committee, officers and members have decided to ignore these recommendations - at our peril.

Of course we must be mindful of the fact that people are still clearing up from the last flood, but they are also still having to watch the news etc wondering when the next one will come. Ths is something that we can effect - the future. We can do this by planning for flooding. Only yesterday a report was mentioned on the BBC from the Committee on Climate Change that warns of more of these downpours in the future.

For us in our steep sided valleys, combined with our recent experiences, this should be a clarion call. Urging us to confront the people who can make changes to the system that allows building on flood plains and also the other steps that are needed to take away the threat of a repeat of this years floods.

From Charles Gate

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My reply to Graham Barker's post 11 July 2012.

Hi Graham on the 30th June I sent a letter on behalf of the Green Party to the Halifax Courier, one of a number over the years on flooding, part of that letter said,

'Our own Government and its agencies have to stop talking about flood threats in terms of one in 30 or 100 years. With climate change it could happen next month again. Here in Calderdale we have been building on flood plains and next to rivers for centuries; this practice can no longer continue. There are at least two planning applications in or pending on schemes in Hebden Bridge that are on or next to the flood plain; one at Mytholm and the other at Mayroyd. Calderdale Council must turn them down. Down in Copley, Halifax, instead of building 200 houses next to the river at Sterne Mills the site must be cleaned of the industrial pollutants and re-engineered back to flood plain.'

Well, very sorry to say, I (and the Green Party) were only too right. In less than a month disaster has struck the Upper Valley again. This isn't taking joy from the disasters or 'saying I told you so'. Iit's a demand that the political leadership of Calderdale and the UK act immediately to reduce the threat from Climate Change and more specifically, in this case, flooding, be it from rising rivers or water off the hills getting blocked by poor drains and/or buildings.

Since 2008, I have been very active on behalf of the Green Party campaigning over the Copley Valley issue, much of which revolves around flooding issues. The Green Party has made numerous attempts to persuade both the former Tory Council and now the Lib Dem/Lab Council not to build on flood plains. They of course have ignored us, even when the Pitt report clearly identifies building on flood plains as being the wrong thing to do.

The Grey Parties are more interested in the interests of big building contractors than they are in the interests of the people who live near rivers and flood plains, about 20% of the UK population.

National and local governments have seriously let down citizens in respect to both climate change and flooding. Is it too much to ask them to do the right thing for once?

Charles Gate,

Green Party candidate Warley Ward by-election

From Joe Ridley

Thursday, 12 July 2012

With respect to Charles Gate's comments regarding the floods, I'm interested to know the facts behind his inference that the recent floods are due to climate change. Do you have any evidence for this idea? My understanding is that the unusual rainfall is due to the current positioning of the jet stream above Britain bringing warm moist air to our skies - I am unaware that this has been driven any man made warming, it's just where the jet stream happens to be at the moment. Do you have any evidence that I'm unaware of?

As for your talk of flood plains. Surely the centre of Hebden Bridge is built on a flood plain (as most villages and towns were in the past). Those properties worst affected are in the centre of town where the river would have naturally flooded to before the buildings were erected - what are you proposing? Wholesale demolition of the centre of Hebden Bridge? Which newly built properties do you have in mind that have been affected by the floods that in your opinion should not have been built? Was it there siting at fault or poor design that didn't account for potential of flooding? For instance, building of the ground floor higher, to be above any potential flood water.

I do agree with you though that the drains are probably a major contributor to the problem and the council should now prioritise measures to prevent the same thing happening again. Watch that space.

Playing politics over this issue is futile. Practical solutions are what we need.

From Roger N

Friday, 13 July 2012

Charles Gate metaphorically shakes his head as if to say 'if only you'd have listened to us, the Green Party'. How dismissive of, and insensitive to, the many people who have lost their livelihoods, in some case with no hope of recovering anything. As if anything the Green Party could ever have done in their short existence could have alleviated the suffering experienced in Hebden Bridge this month! Is it really a case of 'Vote Green and this would never have happened' ? I won't even descend so low as to answer that.

As for his comment about water from the hills getting blocked by inadequate drains, it's actually quite ironic that too much drainage is the valley's biggest problem. Let's look at this simplistically. For hundreds of years our uplands have been characterised by having vast areas of wetlands - particularly sphagnum moss, which is able to carry many times its own weight in water. The result? Well, as rain falls, it is absorbed by the moss - effectively a giant sponge - and only slowly released into the valley. The chance of flash flooding is minimised.

But, of course, there's money to be made from our uplands. The more acreage that can be put over to grouse breeding, the more money can be made for the land owners. How do you increase the area available for heather and subsequent grouse breeding? Simple - you drain it. You get rid of the wetlands and dig drainage channels to take the water into the valley. The result? Well in exceptionally wet weather the rain is instantaneously drained off the hills and straight down into the valley, rather than being held in an effective reservoir of moss. The only outcome of this is misery for valley dwellers and more opportunity for the wealthy to shoot grouse on our moors. If you're sceptical, just look at a map. Look at the huge upland expanses and the relatively tiny steep sided valleys leading down to the Calder and beyond.

Of course we have to look to the long term for the sake of those who follow us. We have to attempt to address the issue of climate change. But it is disingenuos to use the platform of the current disaster in Hebden Bridge to attempt to score cheap party political points, and offer no practical solution to the problem.

From Julie C

Friday, 13 July 2012

Joe - have a look at the Met office's blog.

They have a discussion on the movement of the jetstream, and include the fact that warmer air holds more moisture - the air is now holding 4-5% more moisture as temperaure has risen since pre-industrial temperatures, so when it rains that is likely to be heavier.

From Joe Ridley

Friday, 13 July 2012

Yes Julie, an interesting blog. What they are saying is, we have no evidence thus far and research is continuing. There are some theories being proposed but as far as we know the jet stream moves around more or less at random.

Assuming the 4-5% increase in moisture content figure is correct, are you seriously suggesting that the recent downpours are only 4-5% more intense than expected?

As I said, there is no evidence to link the recent wet weather with man made climate change and for that reason the Green Party and other opportunists should not use terrible events such as the recent floods to progress their agendas.

From Rev Tony Buglass

Friday, 13 July 2012

This isn't the first time abnormal or extreme weather conditions have been explained by the position of the jetstream. It is also not the first time that the issue of climate change has been raised, and of course, everybody waves their own favourite theory. Well, there are a few relevant facts, and a lot of hypothesis.

The positioning of the jetstream is largely due to the temperature of the North Atlantic. This in turn is affected by the meltwater from the Greenland and Arctic ice. This has increased over recent years, significantly changing the salinity and temperature of the Atlantic, moving ocean currents and affecting the position of the jetstream. The increase in Arctic melt is explained by global warming - the atmosphere is demonstrably warmer than in earlier decades. In other words, it is possible to explain our lousy summer by global warming.

However, what has not yet been proven is that this is anthropogenic, or that the warming trend will continue. Both are possible, but neither is yet conclusively proven. Recent discussions have suggested that we can expect more cold winters and wet summers because the jetstream will in future normally position itself further south. Against that, it has recently been reported that there are the first signs of warm Pacific currents, suggesting that next year will be an El Nino year - which normally gives us a wonderful summer.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we head for the bookies to place our bets (I'm a Methodist - I don't do that!), or that we start booking next year's summer hols. Just suggesting that the issue is big and complicated. I occasionally read Paul the weatherman's blog, and I reckon I know what I don't know. I think. Most important is knowing where to grab my wellies...

From Reg Slater

Friday, 13 July 2012

Reference Joe Ridleys comments regarding evidence that recent floods are due to climate change.

Of course it is impossible to "prove" in a mathematical sense that any particular extreme weather event is 6 sigma related to global warming, but a major prediction by climatologists is that global warming will produce more and more extreme weather.

Researchers at the university of Sheffield, and two universities in America, have recently published papers (one shown here) which indicate that as the layer of ice over the Arctic retreats, because of global warming, the refrigeration effect in the northern hemisphere, which this ice provides, is weakened. With less ice, plumes of cold air are forced south, and the temperature balance between the Arctic and the Tropics is disturbed. That in turn has led to a weakening of the jet stream, which has attenuated and is meandering around the northern hemisphere in big loops like a sluggish river.

These loops have left the UK and other northern European countries at the mercy of cold and wet outbreaks of weather. Other countries on the opposite side of the jet stream are afflicted by extreme heat - witness the US which is experiencing temperatures not seen since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.

It's not only the weakening and weaving in the jet stream. There are more and more loops lying in a north-south direction rather than the more usual east-west. When this pattern occurs the waves tend to move more slowly so the weather tends to stick around a lot longer.
Professor Jennifer Francis who authored the above paper states that "the extremes of weather this summer are likely related to the melting of the Arctic sea ice".

The melting of the sea ice continues with a steady decline. This is generally recognised by climatologists as the effect of global warming.

From Jim Creak

Saturday, 14 July 2012

It may may not be the case that climate change is to blame but whatever the reason there are things we should be doing to buffer the spikes in peak water flows. Roger N has it spot on in that the source of the problem lies in the catchment. These deep peat areas are not functioning as they should. The reason for this is because they are being systematically an brutally burned to benefit grouse and nothing else. Burning of these blanket bogs is relatively new since quad bikes and the like have become more common since the 90's.

Burning kills the sphagnum and halts peat formation. Couple this with thousands and thousands of man made drains and you effectively dry the surface out so much it converts into heather blanket bog. This type of vegetation should only occur on thin dry peat but recent years have seen it take over vast areas of our upland because of grouse shooting. These vandalised bogs are the reason peak flows cannot be stabilised.

It is worth thinking about how our 'traditional landscapes' have been managed when rationalising why flood events seem to be more common.

Age of the peat bog = 3000 - 5000 years old
Driven grouse shooting = 150 years old
Intensive drainage of blanket bog = 50 years
Intensive burning of blanket bog = 20 years

Can anyone see the parabola? Go direct to your MP and ask will he make a parliamentary question as to why the government is allowing internationally protected sites to suffer this damage against European law funded by European money.

From Cllr Tim Swift

Saturday, 14 July 2012

I don't want to get into an political debate when we should be concentrating on responding to the floods and finding a way forward, but in some ways the two issues overlap.

Pitt Review

Charles Gates suggests that the Council should read and learn from the Pitt Review. Can I assure him that we have done precisely that? Indeed following the flooding of 2007 a scrutiny review took place in parallel which came to very similar conclusions, leading to a programme of work on improving drainage and smaller water courses which was very much in line with the Pitt recommendations.

And whilst I don't want to distract this into a debate about Copley Valley, the Pitt review did not say there should be no building on flood plains, as he implies, but did commend the approach set out in Government guidance PPS25 - which underpinned the assessments made and requirements placed on the Copley Valley development.

I know these points are only partially related to the current problems, but I do think it's important to emphasise that the impression he and others have tried to give of the Council ploughing blindly ahead in the face of established evidence and good practice is the opposite of the truth.

Flooding and climate change

On the wider issues raised by other commentators on the relationship of these events to climate change, it seems to me that whilst it is not possible to prove that any one flooding incident is caused by climate change, there is sufficient evidence that climate change makes it highly likeliy that extreme weather events will occur more frequently, and therefore that our future planning for flood prevention and alleviation needs to reflect this.

And in particular, as argued by the Pitt Review, that we need to pay increasing attention to the threat of flash flooding as well as the more traditional expectations of flooding through rising river levels. This has implications for the kind of preventive measures we need to lobby for, and also for warning and rapid response systems required.

Uplands drainage

I'm interested in the issues raised in this and another post about the impact of moorland drainage and land management changes. If anyone whose commenting on this can point me in the direction of key articles or evidence - in either side - I'd be interested in seeing how the Council could pursue this with the relevant bodies.

From George Murphy

Sunday, 15 July 2012

In response to the councillor's request for the source of articles regarding the destruction of blanket bog, he should check the references in my original note on the management of local moorlands. An article by George Monbiot appeared in the Guardian on 7th June. Other writers have suggested further research on this subject, some with specific reference to the condition of the Walshaw Estate.

From Julie C

Sunday, 15 July 2012

I walked up Sandygate Lane yesterday. It runs between the Hare and Hounds pub and Sandygate. The road was severely damaged in the flood and I was glad to see a council repair team at work sorting it out.

Beneath the ripped up Tarmac it was possible to see the intact stone water channels that angled across the steepest part of the road at regular intervals, taking the water under the field wall on the left and safely away into the fields.

This ancient system is no longer operational, it's run-offs blocked up.The channels obliterated, all the water went down the road in a terrifying torrent, over the derelict remains off the wall at the end, straight down the hillside and joined the torrents in Nutclough valley.

Repeat this story all over the district. It would pay the Council, longterm, to have more staff cleaning culverts/ ditches/ run-offs. Landowners need persuading that this sort of maintenance is vital. One of the team on the road repair told me he used to dig out this field run off under the wall, but no longer has access because a fence has been put in behind the wall.

He also added that in another place locally, the landowner had stopped him clearing the run-off because it made his field wet, and the road salt was damaging it. So, lots of conflicting interests, and no quick easy fixes. In fact, a new (or perhaps) old approach to the problem is needed.

From Charles Gate

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Sir David Attenborough on climate change: "There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it," he says. "Personally I would be absolutely astounded if population growth and industrialization and all the stuff we are pumping into the atmosphere hadn't changed the climatic balance. Of course, it has. There is no valid argument for denial."

The Independent 14th July 2012. 'Sir David Attenborough: 'This awful summer? We've only ourselves to blame...''

I thank previous comment writers for suggesting that the Green Party is making party political points at a time when many people in the Calder Valley are suffering from two disastrous floods. I would of course accept this criticism if the GP had not, for the last twenty years plus, been banging on about Climate Change and extreme weather events. And of course we would have made huge reductions in global warming gases emitted from UK sources had we been in power for the last 20 years and we would have made the Pitt report recommendations statutory and not voluntary like the Labour and Coalition governments have.

The name of this comments thread is 'floods – the politics', which was started by Paul Clarke (well done) on the 26th June, I being the 9th commentator, to separate it from 'floods – practical solutions' or Calder Valley floods: helping the victims'. Well done to the Hebweb editor for the separations.

Charles Gate, Green Party candidate Warley Ward by-election

From Roger N

Friday, 20 July 2012

Unlike Charles Gate, I think it's inappropriate to separate 'Floods -The Politics' from 'Floods - the Practical Solutions'. The inference seems to be that the two things are different. It suggests that politics has nothing to do with practicality and vice versa. It is a brave - or foolish - politician who would endorse such a notion.

And sadly there is no apology from him for exploiting the misery of so many people in Hebden Bridge. Perhaps if Mr Gate had contributed to the clean up - removing waterlogged furniture, sweeping out vile and sewage infested sludge - he would realise how inappropriate his comments are. His message still appears to be that, had we listened to the Green Party twenty years ago, none of this would have happened. I simply do not believe that.

I've always been sympathetic to the Green Party's views, but I'm beginning to wonder whether it has much relevance to us, representing less than 1% of the world's population. How does refusing a plastic bag at the Co-op offset the net gain of 250,000 new people on this planet every day? (You can see it all happening before your very eyes here. )