Motion calls for ‘no confidence’ vote in Environment Agency following Storm Babet flooding in Rotherham

LIBERAL Democrat councillors will table a motion of no confidence in the Environment Agency – saying it lacks the ability to protect Rotherham residents from flooding.
Flooding in Catcliffe in October. Photo: Alex RoebuckFlooding in Catcliffe in October. Photo: Alex Roebuck
Flooding in Catcliffe in October. Photo: Alex Roebuck

Cllrs Adam Carter and Firas Miro will lodge the motion at tomorrow’s (November 29) full council meeting.

It requests a commitment from the EA to hold an enquiry “to determine why a suitable warning was not issued to residents earlier when it was clear that flood waters would imminently breach the flood defences in Catcliffe”.

More than 250 homes were evacuated in Catcliffe following flooding caused by Storm Babet, with the River Rother reaching record water levels.

The councillors have also requested “significant investment in and improvement of the flood defences” from the EA.

The motion requests that the council agrees “that it has no confidence in the ability of the EA to provide an adequate response to future flooding in Catcliffe and Treeton to keep residents, homes, and businesses safe”.

It also criticises South Yorkshire Police for “actively enforcing” the bus gate on Wood Lane “when alternative main routes in Catcliffe and Brinsworth were impassable, when looting of evacuated residential properties was a high risk”.

Wood Lane is a bus-only access but motorists had used it during the high waters because of the severe disruption on other routes.

But Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, said: “In so far as this motion concerns the police, much of what it suggests is untrue and can only cause unnecessary anxiety and alarm.

“The truth could have been ascertained quite simply by asking the district commander or myself and since no attempt was made to do that the motive of those moving the motion is a mystery.

“Specifically, I understand that during the three-week period in October and early November, South Yorkshire Police issued just one enforcement in relation to use of the bus gate on Wood Lane.

“One motorist was stopped whilst going through the no entry to Wood Lane and, when stopped, admitted to other offences, including offences relating to drugs. He was issued with enforcement and dealt with separately for the other offences.

“South Yorkshire Police did assist local authority and fire colleagues managing some of the road closures and advising members of the public not to use Wood Lane, as it was being used to evacuate local residents from flooded areas. None of those stopped were given enforcement notices, they were just asked to use different routes.

“I know that the challenging circumstances faced by the local residents were foremost in the minds of officers and that extra patrols and support were put in place to ensure the safety of residents and their properties during this particularly stressful time.

“There has been no reporting of looting and the police are always aware of that possibility at a time like this.

“This motion, based on inaccuracies and untruths, is likely to have the effect of undermining people’s trust in the police and that is unforgivable. When people are faced with distressing situations like flooding they need to know that they can trust the police to help them – which they can.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We know the devastating impact flooding can have and our thoughts are with all of those affected during Storm Babet.

“Babet brought a month’s worth of rain in less than 36 hours, with Sheffield recording its wettest day in 139 years and the River Rother at Catcliffe recording the highest ever river levels.

“Flood walls at Catcliffe were inspected after the storm and found to have operated as designed. We continue to work with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to verify the timings around the onset of flooding and the source of the floodwater and we are carefully considering what actions can be taken to support those in Catcliffe, working alongside local MPs and the council.”