Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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167-169 Cross Green Lane,
Leeds LS9 0BD

Flooding: looking backwards and forwards

Ben Chastney's picture
By Ben Chastney |  January 8, 2016 |

Flooding in LeedsWe at Leeds GATE have been taking stock of the recent flooding just before Christmas and the impact it has had on the community. Few can have turned on the TV in the past few weeks and not feel something, whether anxiety for people they know, frustration at the official response in some areas, or encouraged by some community spirited responses. There has been mixed news which prompts us to look both back, at what happened where, and forward, to future risks.

Firstly the good news. Leeds GATE itself was unaffected and its office in Cross Green is all fine. Similarly, the plots themselves on the main site of Cottingley Springs were okay. However, the entrance road was badly flooded and it was only through significant work from the emergency services that residents were able to get in and out of the site. Similarly, those living on Kidacre Street were thankfully okay but it was a worrying time given how close the flooding got in the Crown Point area.

Sadly other members were not so lucky.

Many will be aware of the very serious flooding in York and this unfortunately included St James’ Street Caravan Site. This site was very badly affected with families reportedly ‘losing everything’, and this of course all occurring in the run up to Christmas. Both sites in Bradford were also affected but it appears that the damage to people’s homes was thankfully not too serious. We have heard other tales, both from within Leeds and in other parts of the county of those who, like in York, have seen very serious loss and damage.

One point to note is how this was all reported. It is fair to say that there was little or no mention of these sites, even the most badly affected ones, on TV reports or papers. Not indeed was there mention of the more positive stories, such as when members of the local Muslim community, upset by the lack of support from the local Council, donated to residents on the washed out St James’ Street site. Fortunately we now have alternative social media routes, to highlight both the good and the bad which has been overlooked but hopefully papers, radion and TV better pick this up in future.

The other concern looking to the future is about the clear vulnerability of many Gypsy and Traveller sites. As the recent floods have shown, so many sites are in areas which are at great risk of being directly damaged or their access cut off. This relates to a historic planning problem, of pushing sites to areas which are at risk of flooding or are isolated, certainly at a proportion far greater than bricks and mortar housing. Sadly it seems that any new sites are likely to often suffer this same problem so we must anticipate that the problem will not merely continue but if anything develop.

Lastly, we look again to the response. Not only are Gypsy and Traveller sites likely affected disproportionately by flooding but the response, from local authorities or Government has sadly been consistently poor. As noted, the media focus has similarly not been on this poor response from the authorities so the push will need to come from us and the community. Attention is required now, to both ensure that those sites recently flooded receive appropriate support and that the planning system creates great risks, much of this avoidable, to both existing and future sites.

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