The floods of December 2015 have hit some local business hard and an initial assessment of the long term damage to the regional economy suggests that the economic impact could be as much as £365m. Our Environment Adviser, Elin Pheasant, attended a Bradford Property Forum meeting this morning to find out more from expert speakers from Bradford Council and Arup and to discuss the impact of the recent floods with local property owners and tenants.
Tony Poole (Principal Drainage Engineer) from Bradford Council set the scene for the meeting by looking back at the December 2015 floods that affected over 800 properties in Bradford, 169 of which were commercial properties. He explained that the greater than average rainfall started to cause drainage problems as early as the 15th November 2015 meaning that drains needed to be cleared 2 or 3 times a week and then December saw rainfall 3 times the 30 year average. Bradford Council is currently reviewing its policies and procedures to see if there are any lessons to be learnt from recent events. Tony highlighted the EU funded Blue-Green Cities Research Project which concluded last month and looked at steps that can be taken to use Blue-Green Infrastructure to alleviate flood risk. A summary report of the project findings can be accessed here.
Following Tony’s presentation, David Wilkes from ARUP (Associate Director and Global Flood Resilience Leader) took to the lectern and gave some insights into the potential for blue-green cities which make space for water. Reflecting on the origin of our city’s name, ‘Broad Ford’, David reminded us all that Bradford is the meeting place of several water courses that meet below pavement level and lay hidden from view, most of the time. Bradford has flooded roughly every 10 years and the floods seen recently followed unprecedented rainfall. Many businesses (including 580 in Leeds) are still suffering following the floods. Whilst there are engineering options to improve drainage (bigger or more pipes), the biggest opportunities potentially lie in the development of Blue-Green infrastructure which can bring other benefits such as social wellbeing and habitats to support biodiversity. This type of approach would incorporate making space for water and preparing for flooding by putting valuable equipment up high and incorporating water compatible features to enhance resilience.
Questions and comments from the audience of property owners and tenants supported the concept of Blue-Green infrastructure and the need to make space for water in development plans. However concern was raised over where the funding and leadership would come from to make this happen and the need for wider engagement on this issue across our river catchments and not just within our cities was raised.
If your business was affected by the December 2015 floods, information about where to get advice and financial support is available here. We will also be hosting a seminar on climate change preparedness and resilience at our annual Eco Fair on the 15th June. Please visit www.eco-fair.co.uk or contact Elin Pheasant on 01274 206664 if you’d like to find out more.