A Kipper In York: The Floods

Image: University of York UKIP Association

Image: University of York UKIP Association

Happy new year to the readers of this column and hope you have an enjoyable next few months.

Anyway onto a topical discussion given the problems York had in the Christmas period. I’d first like to pay tribute to all of those from the emergency services who helped get people to safety and with the later clean up, as well as the volunteers that helped as well. It’s good to see that York has a strong community spirit in times of natural disaster.

Now the main question – how do we stop this from happening again? Or rather, why weren’t the appropriate measures in place to stop this from happening? There are many politicians that use the old cop-out of “climate change” in order to remove responsibility from the government. It was not climate change which failed to invest in adequate flood defences, nor was it climate change that put unnecessary legislation into place meaning rivers couldn’t be dredged. It wasn’t climate change that built 200,000 houses on floodplains from 2001 to 2011. I think you can see what I’m getting at here, Climate Change policy is an irrelevance to this debate whether you support renewable energy or not, as investing in wind farms and solar panels (or any other UK policy attempting to prevent climate change) would not have stopped these floods.

Now, I know it is stereotypical of someone in my party to talk about the problems with the EU in relation to any problem that this country faces. For the record this is, I believe, the second time I’ve mentioned it in any context in this column, and certainly the first critique I’ve done of its policy. In this case the EU holds some responsibility for the inadequate flood preparation. The EU waterway directive of 2000 , demands that rivers are kept as close to their natural state as possible, meaning that rivers that should have been dredged were not, as dredging is in violation of the directive. It’s all very well saying that articles 30 and 31 allow for dredging after the fact , but that’s hardly going to save the property and undo the millions of pounds worth of damage the floods have already caused. The UK had the same problems last year on Salisbury plain, where rivers that had been dredged since the medieval period were prevented from being dredged by this directive. It’s all very well to talk about preserving the environment and indeed such preservation should be encouraged, but refusing to dredge rivers that historically have been proven to require dredging defies all logic.

The next thing is why do we always encourage development of floodplains? 200,000 homes were built on floodplains over 2001-2011, we can hardly act surprised that houses flood when we have developed areas which originally have been the rivers’ natural stoppers. I understand that given our rising population we need to build housing, but there are plenty of brownfield sites around the country which could be developed. We should support the development of such sites by reducing the taxes on such developments, in fact this is UKIP policy, endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered surveyors in 2015. Further suggestions include creating a brownfield map with a view to building 1 million houses on brownfield sites over the next 10 years.

It is also worth noting that the government could have easily invested in flood defences for the North of England, instead of vanity projects such as HS2. Instead they cut the funding to the Environment Agency and thereby failed to prioritise spending appropriately.  Not building flood defences in favour of building a railway in an area that is already well invested in? For all their talk about economic responsibility, it is clear the Tories haven’t been as conservative as their name and rhetoric would suggest.

In short, let’s stop letting the government distract us using global phenomena, regardless of where you stand on Climate Change, and focus on the issues that might solve the problem of flooding. The solutions are out there; the government merely needs to implement them.

This article was amended at 15:36 GMT on 15/01/2016 to re-insert a sentence that had been taken out during the editing process, which changed the content of the fourth paragraph.


  1. I’m not sure that the author has understood articles 30 and 31 of the Directive. They speak for themselves:

    “(30) In order to ensure a full and consistent implementation of this Directive any extensions of timescale should be made on the basis of appropriate, evident and transparent criteria and be justified by the Member States in the river basin management plans.”

    30 refers to delayed implementation of the Directive.

    “(31) In cases where a body of water is so affected by human activity or its natural condition is such that it may be unfeasible or unreasonably expensive to achieve good status, less stringent environmental objectives may be set on the basis of appropriate, evident and transparent criteria, and all practicable steps should be taken to prevent any further deterioration of the status of waters.”

    31 does talk about water quality, but provides for exemptions.

    Article 32 is also relevant:

    “(32) There may be grounds for exemptions from the requirement to prevent further deterioration or to achieve good status under specific conditions, if the failure is the result of unforeseen or exceptional circumstances, in particular floods and droughts, or, for reasons of overriding public interest, of new modifications to the physical characteristics of a surface water body or alterations to the level of bodies of groundwater, provided that all practicable steps are taken to mitigate the adverse impact on the status of the body of water.”

    I would have thought that, plainly, defence against flooding is part of the overriding public interest. The result is that dredging doesn’t have to take place only after the fact, but can take place pre-emptively.

    I actually agree with the author that the government’s spending priorities are often bizarre, and I agree that you cannot blame a single incident on a phenomenon such as climate change. However, it makes it very hard to take the author seriously on any scientific issue when they casually dismiss the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community on the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

    Could I point out to the campus UKIP group that the name of our institution is the University of York, and not York University?

    Reply Report

    • We’re referred to as York Uni UKIP due to a twitter spat some time ago where a bunch of immature Tories took the name Uni of York UKIP and passed it off as ours.
      The dredging now can only be done retrospectively as the directive says “failure due to exceptional circumstances such as floods” the floods had only happened previously. I got the wrong directive , it was 31 and 32 I concede, missed it by one. Nevermind. First there has to be proof of “public interest” , now it can be done after the fact.
      Where do I dismiss anthropogenic climate change in the article? Point it out to me specifically. I simply say that renewable energy would not have stopped the floods. Blaming climate change for flooding helps no-one, and actually distracts from the issue.
      I personally accept anthropogenic climate change theory, I’m not in a position to say otherwise. On a side note I’m not a scientist , but I know that consensus doesn’t produce science. Just because I dismiss blaming it as legitimate policy to prevent flooding, doesn’t mean I don’t think it happens.

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  2. 9 Feb ’16 at 10:21 pm

    David Landon Cole

    Thanks for your reply, Thomas – much appreciated.

    I disagree on your interpretation of the articles for the reasons I gave; a clear public interest exists in preventing highly damaging floods, and thus 32 permits dredging. I would also suggest that 31 comes into play, as the Ouse and Foss – constrained as they are in York and elsewhere, used for navigation, with barriers across them – are already substantially affected.

    As I said in my comment, you cannot blame a single incident on climate change.

    I misunderstood your position on climate change, I do apologise; you put climate change in inverted commas towards the top of the article, and I assumed, perhaps rashly, that you didn’t accept it.

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    • Apology accepted, the reason why I put it in quotation marks was because I was quoting the politicians.
      On the public interest point, I think that it’s been proven now so we can dredge, I do hold the directive responsible for why we did not dredge earlier. Retrospect is a wonderful thing I suppose.

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