Report reveals full impact of Lancaster storms

Game Changer: The scene in Lancashire after the flood in December

Game Changer: The scene in Lancashire after the flood in December

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A report has revealed that 139 households and 53 businesses still can’t move back into their premises four months after the Lancaster floods.

The Lancaster City Council report into the impact of Storms Desmond and Eva also says 66 further businesses are still only partially operational after the severe weather of December 2015.

It also says £859,000 in city and county council grants have been given to homes and businesses to help them recover from the storms.

The report by chief council officers said the December storms were “game changing” and a “steep learning curve” for Lancaster City Council that will make “handling future events easier”.

It warned that “Lancashire will become more likely to experience the impacts of severe weather incidents in the future” and there are “new areas of vulnerability we need to prepare for”.

The report also praised the new Heysham to M6 link road, due to open later this year.

“The Heysham to M6 link means there will be an alternative means of crossing the river in future should Greyhound or Skerton bridge be damaged or lost.”

The report also hit out at the government for putting obstacles in the way of recovery funding and for “not having a realistic understanding of the challenges households and businesses face in securing re-occupancy of flooded premises”.

The council also praised its own involvement in the flood recovery, giving a pat on the back to staff for keeping essential services and systems running.

“Perhaps the greatest revelation rising from the Storm Desmond incident is that neither the government nor the county council have the ability to intervene to assist the community into recovery without the resources, knowledge and skills of the city council,” said the report.

“In short, notwithstanding what has been said about the value of local government in recent years, it has proved itself invaluable on this occasion.”

But the report admits that the declaration of a major emergency “did not go smoothly” on the night of December 5 due to “uncertainty over severity and location” of the incident.

The city council’s Emergency Control Centre at Lancaster Town Hall was activated at 9pm on December 5 but did not open until 10.30pm because the on-call emergency officer was trapped by floods at his home in the South Lakes.

The report will go before the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on April 20.

The council may be asked to review its policy on providing sand bags for emergency flood defences. At the moment, the council does not provide free sand bags to the public.