Letter to Julian Sturdy,MP for York

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Letter to Julian Sturdy,MP for York
« on: January 16, 2016, 08:23:44 PM »
Mr Julian Sturdy MP  (York Outer)

Dear Mr Sturdy.

 Thank you for your York flooding update.  The allocation of £10 Million for the updating of York flood defences is of course welcome, but regrettably this will not really deal with the root of the several problems underlying the floods in York and many other locations as we have all seen and which the government and the Environment Agency appears to be largely ignoring.

  I refer to the critical part played by the EU, yet again, in our internal affairs, and specifically through the application by our government of  both the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Habitat Directive, both of which make the necessary dredging our river systems extremely difficult and costly.   I refer you to the following article by Phillip Walling  recently published in the Newcastle Gazette and subsequently widely circulated on the internet and sections of the print media.

Mr Walling refers to the EU WFD, but there is also the  further restrictive EU Habitats Directive which imposes a complex system of safeguards for "European Protected Species" – and this also has an inhibiting effect on choices made by the Environment Agency as to whether to carry out dredging.

In the light of these 'directives' I write to ask whether you will now formally call on Mr Cameron to

demand a complete disapplication of both  of these highly damaging and intrusive EU directives as a high priority in his continuing negotiations with the EU Commission which affect the lives and property of people in York and elsewhere.

Please confirm that this demand will be presented to the Prime Minister so that the people of York and in other flood affected areas will have the necessary reassurance that this vital step will be taken for their protection in the future.  As a constituent I also ask you to make public the response you receive from Mr Cameron, and your confirmation of receipt of this e mail. 

With thanks


Graham Wood
Article by Phillp Walling:-

"Amid all the devastation and recriminations over the flooding, hardly anybody mentions one factor that may not be the sole cause but certainly hasn’t helped, and that is the almost complete cessation of dredging of our rivers since we were required to accept the European Water Framework Directive (EWF) into UK law in 2000.

Yet until then, for all of recorded history, it almost went without saying that a watercourse needed to be big enough to take any water that flowed into it, otherwise it would overflow and inundate the surrounding land and houses. Every civilisation has known that, except apparently ours. It is just common sense. City authorities and, before them, manors and towns and villages, organised themselves to make sure their watercourses were cleansed, deepened and sometimes embanked to hold whatever water they had to carry away.

In nineteenth century Cockermouth they came up with an ingenious way of doing this. Any able-bodied man seeking bed and board for the night in the workhouse was required to take a shovel and wheelbarrow down to the River Derwent and fetch back two barrow-loads of gravel for mending the roads. This had the triple benefit of dredging the river, maintaining the roads and making indigent men useful.

In Cumbria they knew they had to keep the river clear of the huge quantities of gravel that were washed down from the fells, especially in times of flood. For Cumbrian rivers are notoriously quick to rise as the heavy rain that falls copiously on the High Fells rapidly runs off the thin soils and large surface area over which it falls. Cumbrian people have always known that their rivers would be subject to such sudden and often violent inundations and prepared for them by deepening and embanking their channels. Such work was taken very seriously.

There are numerous records over many centuries of the Cockermouth Court Leet (Manor Court) imposing fines on occupiers for neglecting to cleanse the watercourses that ran through their land. So important was it to prevent flooding that the court often issued detailed and explicit instructions to parishes how to cleanse their various watercourses. For example in 1718 (and again in 1772) certain owners, whose land bordered the river, were fined for allowing it to become ‘beaten out of its course by sand and gravel’ and given two months to dredge it out.

It was obvious to people, who depended on the land for their living that failing to keep the rivers clear of sand and gravel would cause them to burst their banks and destroy in a few hours fertility that had taken generations to create, wash away their houses, and drown their livestock.

Last century the obligation to dredge out the rivers was transferred to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics, and who had statutory responsibilities to prevent or minimise flooding.

But all this changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we adopted the European Water Framework Directive in 2000. No longer were the authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding. Instead, the emphasis shifted, in an astonishing reversal of policy, to a primary obligation to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to ‘undisturbed natural conditions’. ‘Heavily modified waters’, which include rivers dredged or embanked to prevent flooding, cannot, by definition, ever satisfy the terms of the directive. So, in order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.

And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

On the other hand there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of grant money available for all manner of conservation and river ‘restoration’ schemes carried out by various bodies, all of which aim to put into effect the utopian requirements of the E W F Directive to make rivers as ‘natural’ as possible.

For example, 47 rivers trusts have sprung up over the last decade, charities heavily encouraged and grant-aided by the EU, Natural England, the Environment Agency, and also by specific grants from various well-meaning bodies such as the National Lottery, water companies and county councils. The West Cumbria Rivers Trust, which is involved in the River Derwent catchment, and includes many rivers that have flooded, is a good example. But they all have the same aim, entirely consonant with EU policy, to return rivers to their ‘natural healthy’ state, reversing any ‘straightening and modifying’ which was done in ‘a misguided attempt to get water off the land quicker’. They only think it ‘misguided’ because fast flowing water contained within its banks can scour out its bed and maybe wash out some rare crayfish or freshwater mussel, and that conflicts with their (and the EU’s) ideal of a ‘natural’ river .

The Environment Agency has spent millions of pounds on ‘flood defences’ and still has the gall to warn us piously that they are not guaranteed to work and if our houses are flooded and livestock washed away and drowned, we will just have to accept it. The climate is changing, they say, live with it. But the real reason they erect expensive and largely ineffective flood defences, as at Carlisle and Keswick, is because such work does not interfere with the flow of the river in its bed, so it does not infringe the EU Water Framework Directive.

Also there is EU money available for flood ‘defences’, but none for the very measure that would do some good, namely removing the huge build-up of gravel from the river bed. This is hardly mentioned, and if it is, they try to make out that it would do more harm than good. Maybe to molluscs and invertebrates, but not to the devastated people whose homes are being destroyed time and time again.

No. The truth they don’t tell you is that even if they wanted to, neither the UK government, nor the Environment Agency has the power to dredge – or the money. So next time you see David Cameron and his MP acolytes swanning around Cumbria in wellingtons, high-viz jackets and hard hats, wringing their hands and promising to do whatever it takes to protect us from flooding, ask them how exactly they intend to get round the European Water Framework Directive. And they would have to tell you they can’t. Not while we remain in the EU. So any sympathy politicians express for the plight of their constituents is either based on ignorance, or deceit. It’s about time we asked them which it is."

E Bulletin from Julian Sturdy MP for York
In this E-Bulletin...
 ~ Visiting the Flood Command Centre ~ Meeting with Environment Minister at the Foss Barrier ~ Meeting with Environment Secretary to discuss additional funding ~ Visiting Naburn and Fulford ~ Recently Announced Funding ~

 View this email in your browser 


Welcome to my special E-Bulletin on the recent flooding York and the surrounding area has experienced over the Christmas period. The flooding has had a devastating impact on homes and businesses in York and across the region and I wanted to get in touch with residents to update you on the current situation and action that has been taken over the last couple of weeks. I hope that you find this E-Bulletin helpful and informative, however if there are any concerns you would like to raise with me, please do not hesitate to drop me a line with the details at the bottom of the page.


Visiting the Flood Command Centre
 On the 28th December I visited the flood command centre to discuss the latest flooding developments. At the centre I met with officials from the Environment Agency, emergency services and local council. I was pleased that the Prime Minister also visited York and announced that the city would receive additional funding to help communities. Homeowners and businesses affected will now receive grants of up to £5,000 so they can install new flood prevention and resilience measures. For more information please visit my website.


Meeting with Environment Minister at the Foss Barrier
 On the 29th December I visited the Foss Barrier with the Environment Minister, Rory Stewart MP and Council Leader, Chris Steward. We discussed the emergency work on the Foss Barrier which included reinstating four pumps, allowing the barrier to drawn water much quicker from the River Foss. For more information please click here.


Meeting with Environment Secretary to discuss additional funding
 On the 30th December I met with the Environment Secretary, Liz Truss MP, who confirmed that over £2 million worth of funding had already been earmarked to upgrade the Foss Barrier and her Department would look into providing more funds. This came after an earlier announcement that £50 million of extra funding will be made available immediately to York and other areas in the North affected by the flooding. Combined with the earlier £50 million allocated to Cumbria and Lancashire it makes total flood funding stand at £100 million. For more information please visit my website.


Visiting Naburn and Fulford
During this period I have also visited villages in the constituency heavily impacted by the recent floods, which includes Naburn and Fulford. In both villages I spoke to local residents and followed up their concerns with officials from the Council and Environment Agency. I also met with Councillor Suzie Mercer and the Parish Council in Naburn. For more information on Fulford and Naburn, please visit my website.


Recently Announced Funding
 I welcome the Prime Ministers further announcement that York is to receive an additional £10 million of new funding to improve flood defences in the City. This funding will be reserved for upgrades to the Foss Barrier. A further £30 million has also been announced for repairing flood defences across Yorkshire, including the River Ouse. This funding goes alongside the £100 million already announced. The Prime Minister also pledged that the Government would provide more support to charities helping people who have been affected by the flooding by matching every pound of the first £2 million raised. Applications for matched funding can be made by any registered charity that is currently running a fundraising appeal for flood relief in York. For more information, please click here.

Share the Facts
 Here are some of the recent announcements released by the Government. •Cutting taxes for working people
•Introducing a National Living Wage
•Car production is at its highest level since 2008
•Unemployment falling and wages rising
•The Childcare Bill: Support for working parents
As ever, if I can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me using the details below.

Julian Sturdy MP
 Member of Parliament for York Outer
 York Conservatives
 1 Ash Street
 YO26 4UR
[email protected]
 020 7219 7199
 01904 784 847

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