Rotherham Council approves no confidence vote in Environment Agency

Flooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex RoebuckFlooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex Roebuck
Flooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex Roebuck
ANGRY councillors delivered a unanimous vote of no confidence in the Environment Agency following the devastating flooding of 250 homes at Catcliffe.

Residents tried to raise the alarm as Storm Babet approached but were reassured by the EA – only to be woken and told to evacuate at 2am.

Residents in other parts of the country received the government’s “risk to life” alert on their phones, but this did not happen in Catcliffe.

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“Serious failings have happened here,” said Rotherham’s Lib Dem leader Cllr Adam Carter, when he presented a motion to full council last Wednesday (29).

Cllr Adam CarterCllr Adam Carter
Cllr Adam Carter

“It’s disgraceful that we had residents warning the council and the EA, and their views weren’t heard.

“Residents in Catcliffe feel ignored. They feel that they get sacrificed at the expense of other areas along the River Rother.

“It really saddens me to be proposing this motion because I really hoped that the council leadership in 2007 were right [about it not happening again], and that Catcliffe wasn’t going to be sacrificed. It seems, and it’s obvious now, that that was wrong.”

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A formal section 19 review is taking place to establish what went wrong over the weekend Storm Babet hit in October.

Flooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex RoebuckFlooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex Roebuck
Flooding at Catcliffe, October 2023. Photo: Alex Roebuck

RMBC leader Cllr Chris Read said: “Anybody who saw the piece on Look North of the [EA] representative on the Thursday saying ‘I would be very surprised if there was any flooding’ and then confronted with his remarks two days later saying ‘Well, what can you do, it’s funny stuff water’ …it’s not the kind of thing that can give you confidence that these are professional people who are delivering a high quality service and keeping people’s homes safe.”

The Liberal Democrat motion won support across the chamber at the full council meeting.

But Labour expressed unease at the part of the motion which disapproved of South Yorkshire Police’s enforcement of the Wood Lane bus gate, Brinsworth, when other roads were flooded.

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Police commissioner Dr Alan Billings issued a lengthy statement saying such criticism “can only cause unnecessary anxiety and alarm” and would undermine people’s trust in the force.

Cllr Carter said this seemed a “peculiar” line to go on the attack with, adding that the police van parked on Wood Lane could have been better used during the emergency.

The motion stated that the council 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”.

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.

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“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.”