D&S column: Dales flood relief effort gets underway

The torrential rainfall and flash-flooding that we saw in Swaledale and Wensleydale on Tuesday afternoon and evening this week was pretty much unprecedented.

One farmer constituent of mine recalled the flooding of Swaledale by the remnants of Hurricane Charley in 1986 which wreaked havoc in the same area. He thought it was worse than that.

And when I spoke to the Yorkshire area director of the Environment Agency, Oliver Harmar, on Wednesday morning he said the only comparable incident was the flash flooding that almost swept away the Cornish village of Boscastle in 2004.

While awaiting confirmation of the rainfall data, he had been told between 100-150mm of rain had fallen in very localised areas around Leyburn, Reeth and Grinton in a three-hour period. That’s about a month’s worth of rain.

The tremendous intensity of the rainfall was the problem. Already saturated ground was unable to absorb more and the water simple ran off the fields and on to the roads where it carried everything before it – from garden sheds to vehicles.

The impact has been devastating, even for communities that are used to extremes of weather.

As I write this column, eight households have had to re-homed by Richmondshire District Council after floodwaters made their homes uninhabitable. There may be more, as Tony Clark, the council’s chief executive explained to me because the traditional stoicism of Dalesfolk means some may not seek help.

That otherwise admirable quality may not serve everyone well. I would urge constituents to seek out the help that is available. My entire office has been focussed on nothing else all week, and we stand ready to help anybody who needs assistance.

Many businesses have been hit too, with farmers in particular counting the cost of lost livestock, silage and damaged walls and buildings.

Liaising with North Yorkshire County Council, police and fire service on Wednesday, it was clear what a sterling job our emergency services did to keep people safe. My thanks to every single one of them and also the Army in the shape of 2 Yorkshire Regiment who turned out from Catterick Garrison to help. The Garrison has confirmed to me that should more manpower be needed it is available.

I’ll be staying in close contact with all the authorities and agencies involved to offer whatever assistance I can as we enter the recovery and repair stage of the operation. It is clear repairs to Grinton Moor Bridge and the landslip on the B6270 will be extensive and the safety of other bridges and roads in the affected area will have to be assessed by North Yorkshire County Council’s engineers to check they are stable and safe.

In relation to those households who have been forced out their homes, I have asked Richmondshire District Council to pass my details to the affected families so that if they wish to contact me they can do so. I’m here to help.

With that in mind, and also the questions that people less severely affected might have, I have produced a one-page guide to all the assistance that is available. It contains a lot of useful numbers and websites and you can find it on my website and Facebook page.