House of Commons Library

Autumn and winter floods in England, 2019

Published Monday, January 27, 2020

This is a House of Commons Library briefing paper on the serious flooding that occurred in England in November and December 2019. A Westminster Hall debate on flooding in South Yorkshire will be held on 30 January 2020, led by Stephanie Peacock MP.

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In November 2019, heavy rainfall led to flooding across the Midlands and north of England. This led to homes being evacuated, transport disruption and the loss of at least one life. The Environment Agency said that 38 pumps had been set up across South Yorkshire, and the village of Fishlake at one point saw water levels of 2 metres. The Government said that around 22,000 properties had been protected by flood defences, including nearly 7,000 properties in Yorkshire.

Even after the worst of the flooding had been managed, rivers were expected to respond quickly to any future rainfall with so much water remaining in river catchments. Further flooding occurred in the south of England in December 2019, and flood warnings were in place as Storm Brendan made landfall in January 2020.

A November estimate put expected insurance payouts as a result of the flooding at £110 million. In the days after the flooding began, the Government made several announcements of support for those affected, including activating the Bellwin Scheme and the Flood Recovery Framework.

Parliament was not sitting when the flooding began, and reactions to the severe weather events played out against the backdrop of the general election campaign. Some opposition parties called on the Government to declare a “national emergency” and criticised levels of investment in flood risk management, while other commentators suggested that dredging rivers of silt would have reduced the risk.

This paper provides an outline of the flood events in November and December 2019 in the context of other extreme weather that year, and refers to some initial assessments of the impact of the flooding. It also summarises the various support measures announced by the Government, and the political and stakeholder reactions. A list of suggested further reading is provided at the end of the paper.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8803

Author: Jonathan Finlay

Topic: Flooding

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