David Dickson, Chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership Infrastructure and Joint Assets Board, reflects on the successful delivery of major infrastructure schemes in the region.
More homes and businesses in our region received improved protection from flooding this month.
When new pumps and a property resilience scheme was unveiled for the Malton area, it represented the latest milestone for eight major projects in York, North Yorkshire and East Riding.
In 2015, Boxing Day flooding in North and West Yorkshire caused serious, and unprecedented damage to over 4,000 homes, almost 2,000 businesses and over 100 kilometres of urban and farm land, causing economic costs of over half a billion pounds. It provided a catalyst for further flood defence investment, including £7.1m from the Local Growth Fund, allocated by York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. While Local Enterprise Partnerships have no statutory obligation to tackle flooding, the York & North Yorkshire LEP felt value would be added to flood defence plans for the area. By supporting flood alleviation projects protecting businesses, firms would be protected from flooding and further commercial development would be encouraged on sites previously seen as being ‘at risk’. Now, seven years since the first round of Local Growth Fund money was awarded to the LEP, there is an opportunity to reflect on a truly remarkable effort by public and private sector partners to get these schemes delivered.
An evaluation team has been recently examining the eight schemes supported. In a survey of delivery partners, two thirds of respondents felt the schemes simply wouldn’t have happened if financial backing hadn’t been forthcoming via the LEP. The remaining third felt the scale or timing of the plans would have been impacted without this backing. It’s a sobering thought when you consider the benefits these projects, in Malton & Norton, Tadcaster, Pocklington, Whitby, Skipton and Dalton, bring. The evaluation finds £26m of additional funding has been levered from the £7.1m invested, jobs have been protected and businesses given the opportunity to grow. One sponsor also estimated flood alleviation works prevented future losses to the area’s tourism industry of around £4.1m per year. Tree planting among the projects, to offset carbon emissions, was also positively highlighted in the report.
Skipton Flood Alleviation Scheme was one such project to receive support from the Local Growth Fund. Having been hit by the 2015 floods, the fourth such major disruption since 2000, a “one in 100 year” standard of flood protection was devised to keep 378 homes and at least 165 businesses safe. Two flood storage areas upstream of Skipton have been built to slow the flow of water from surrounding hills, reducing the risk of the watercourses overtopping in the town centre. The water is also channelled more effectively through the town by improved river flood defences.
As well as providing an important flood defence, the project acts as a catalyst for the wider development of the South Skipton area, which has the capacity for 25,000 square metres of new commercial floor space and housing. The scheme will be a foundation for new investment and new jobs within the town and surrounding area.
Of course, none of these projects could have happened without the work of many partners representing the public and private sector, including the Environment Agency and the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. Proposals for funding were independently appraised, then considered by the LEP’s performance group and formally agreed at board level – a process again involving a mix of public and private sector representatives.
Flood management schemes are just one part of a wider portfolio of more than 40 projects supported by the LEP’s Local Growth Fund pot since 2014. Alongside flooding, sit business growth, housing and employment, skills and transport and connectivity projects across the region. Now, with the fund ending, attention turns to delivery of a further 10 schemes supported by the Getting Building Fund via the LEP. I’m pleased to say this is on track, and will present further opportunities for continued good growth in our region.
Collaborative working between the public and private sector has achieved fantastic results which will benefit this region’s economy for years to come. It will help our region achieve the ambition of being a greener, fairer and stronger place as we emerge from the pandemic.
From an article written for the Yorkshire Post, 21 June 2021.