House of Commons Library

Winter floods 2015-16

Published Thursday, January 21, 2016

A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper setting out the Government response to the winter floods 2015-16 and the support schemes announced; commentary and calls for action following the flooding; and information for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Winter floods 2015-16

Storm Desmond 

In early December 2015, Storm Desmond led to localised flooding in the north west of England, southern Scotland, north Wales and parts of Northern Ireland. Cumbria was the worst-hit county: more than a month’s rain fell in one day on Saturday (5th December) and main rivers all across Cumbria exceeded the highest levels ever recorded.

Storm Eva

Further heavy rainfall and severe flooding occurred over Christmas 2015 as a result of Storm Eva. On Boxing Day residents in West Yorkshire and Lancashire were evacuated from their homes and flooding hit Leeds, Greater Manchester and York. The following day hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in York when the Foss barrier was raised due to flooding of its electrical controls. Flood warnings were also issued in the Scottish borders and Tayside areas, as well as areas of north-west Wales include Capel Curig.

Storm Frank

Storm Frank followed at the end of the year, briging storms and severe gales to western parts of the UK, particularly north-west Scotland. Further flooding occurred, leading to many homes being evacuated. The BBC reported that one person died as a result of these floods.

In total, the Government has confirmed that around 16,000 properties in England were flooded and about 20,000 properties were protected from being flooded by existing flood defences.

Support schemes announced

Bellwin Scheme

The Flooding Statement confirmed that the Government will open the Bellwin scheme for local authorities affected by floods and that 100% of eligible costs will be met by the Government.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark confirmed that support for local authorities would be available through the Bellwin Scheme in a press release on 8 December. This was extended to those affected by Storm Eva on 29 December.

Authorities are eligible for costs under Bellwin when they have spent more than 0.2% of their calculated annual revenue budgets on works. Eligible authorities now include: councils; police authorities; fire and rescue authorities; and National Park authorities.

Further information, including the types of expenditure that are eligible for reimbursement, is available in the Library Briefing Paper on the Bellwin Scheme.

Additional funding announced

Overall about £200 million additional investment has been announced to aid recovery from the winter flooding 2015/16.

The Government will apply the Barnett formula to this funding to determine how much the Devolved Administrations will receive. It is up to the Devolved Administrations as to how this money is spent.

A breakdown of the main funding announcements is as follows:

  • 9 December: £51 million for those affected by flooding in Cumbria and Lancashire. The Government press release confirms that this takes total Government support pledged to over £60 million. Of this, nearly £40 million will go into the Community Recovery Scheme and the Farming Recovery Fund and £10 million will be invested through the Environment Agency to repair the damaged flood defences in Cumbria and Lancashire;
  • 27 December: £40 million for rebuilding roads and transport links in Cumbria and Lancashire;
  • 29 December: £50 million for those affected by Storm Eva, including £6 million for businesses affected (confirmed on 1 January), to be administered via the Community Recovery Scheme and the Farming Recovery Fund;
  • 3 January: £40 million to repair and improve flood defences following Storm Eva. Of this, £10 million will be reserved to improve the Foss Barrier protecting York, which was overwhelmed at the height of Storm Eva. The other £30 million will be spent repairing defences on the Wharfe, Calder, Aire, Ouse and Derwent. It will include repairs to pumping and barriers and clearing blockages in rivers.
  • Any funding raised by charities for flood-hit communities will also be matched, up to £2 million by the Government, with £1 million already paid to the Cumbria Community Foundation for Storm Desmond.
  • 10 January: Ministerial Flood Recovery Envoy for Yorkshire, Robert Goodwill announced an additional £3.3 million of funding for North Yorkshire County Council to repair and restore Tadcaster Bridge in North Yorkshire (£3m) and the construction of a temporary footbridge to serve the community while work is ongoing (£300,000).
  • 17 January: Robert Goodwill announced an additional £5.5 million of funding to enable Calderdale Council to rebuild Elland Bridge in Calderdale, West Yorkshire (£5 million) and to build a temporary footbridge in the interim (£500,000).

Review plans announced

In addition, the following national and local Cumbrian review plans were announced by the Secretary of State for Environment on 13 December:

  • a National Flood Resilience Review is taking place to better protect the country from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events. The review will be published in summer 2016 and will be led by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Letwin. It will include input from Defra, DECC, DCLG, HMT, the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency and the Government’s Chief Scientist.
  • A new Cumbrian Floods Partnership group has also been formed to “consider what improvements to flood defences in the region may be needed, look at upstream options for slowing key rivers to reduce the intensity of water flows at peak times and build stronger links between local residents, community groups and flood defence planning.” The Group will publish a Cumbria Action Plan in summer 2016.


Flooding is a devolved matter and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) is the flood warning authority in Scotland which provides live flooding information and advice on how to prepare for and cope with the impacts of flooding.

A number of flood warnings were put in place in southern Scotland over the course of impacts of Storm Desmond. About 600 homes in the Borders town of Hawick were evacuated over the weekend after the River Teviot burst its banks and the Nith flooded in Dumfries.

On 7 December, the Bellwin Scheme was opened in Scotland to fund emergency repair work. It was extended on 30 December 2015 as a result of Storm Frank.

On 23 December, Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod confirmed that the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2016-17 maintains provision for funding flood protection schemes.

On 9 January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced additional funding of £12 million to help areas affected by severe weather across Scotland. This includes £5.8 million for households and businesses affected by the flooding; capital funding of up to £5 million will also be made available to Local Authorities to replace infrastructure severely damaged by flood waters – including support for the reinstatement of the A93 between Ballater and Braemar; and an Agricultural Floodbank Restoration Grant Scheme of up to £1 million.


Flooding is a devolved matter and Natural Resources Wales is the flood warning authority which provides latest information and advice on flooding across Wales.

On 5 January, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, pledged £2.3 million to support communities in Wales at risk of flooding. This is in addition to £1 million that has been made available to local authorities for immediate repairs. He stated:

The additional £2.3 million investment I’m announcing today builds on the £1 million we made available last week to local authorities for immediate repairs and maintenance to ensure homes and properties remain resilient.

It’s important to remember that since 2011 we’ve committed almost £300m, including European funding, to managing flood risk and an additional £150m will be invested in coastal risk management from 2018.

Northern Ireland

Flooding is a devolved matter and the latest flooding information and advice for Northern Ireland can be found on nidirect government services website.

Storm Desmond caused flooding in Northern Ireland, in particular in Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh. The BBC reported that the largest rainfall totals were recorded in Fermanagh - Derrylin had 117.8mm which is just under five inches and more than half of this fell in a 24-hour period.

Stormont's Environment Minister Mark H Durkan activated emergency payments of £1,000 for householders affected by heavy rainfall and flooding. He stated:

Following recent incidents of flooding, individual householders who have suffered severe inconvenience can claim £1,000 payment from their local council, as an offer of practical assistance. The payment is meant to ensure that homes are made habitable as quickly as possible. It is not a compensation payment.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-7424

Author: Sara Priestley

Topic: Flooding

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