By Lowri Pitcher
February 2020 marked the wettest February in the UK since records began in 1862. The average rainfall across the UK last month was 202.1mm, this beat the previous record of 193.4mm from the same month in 1990. Having faced three storms; Ciara, Dennis and Jorge, South Wales has been particularly gravely affected by the extreme rainfall.
As Storm Dennis brought 90mph winds and over a month’s worth of rain to Wales in approximately 48 hours, areas from Aberfan to Cardiff Bay were flooded as major waterways such as the River Taff, River Severn and River Wye all burst their banks.
Cardiff’s Bute Park was badly affected by flooding, with greater impact on the north side of the park near Blackweir and Pontcanna fields, as well as the area near Castle Street. It is understood that the cost of repair work that Cardiff Council must conduct is an estimated £150,000 – 200,000. However, in order to repair and improve relevant infrastructure such as dredging the River Taff, the cost could increase up to £3 million.
This is only one example of the large sums of money needed by local councils in order to aid the recovery from the flooding. Rhondda Cynon Taff Council leader, Andrew Morgan has claimed that the costs to his council will range between £10-15 million and could increase.
In response to the widespread damage, Minister for Energy, Environment and Rural Affairs for the Welsh Government, Lesley Griffiths announced that “The Welsh Government will continue its work to combat the climate emergency, support communities most in need to recover from these incidents, and invest to protect people from the impact of increasingly severe weather events.”
In practice, up to £10 million will be available by the Welsh Government in order to help those whose houses have been damaged by the storms, support businesses and highstreets affected, help local authorities with clean-up costs and allow for urgent infrastructure repairs such as fixing bridges or transport links.
The emergency fund means that “All households affected by flooding throughout Wales will receive £500. An extra £500 will be available to those without house insurance cover.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said that “We [The Welsh Government] want to do all we can to help [those affected] at this extremely stressful time. I also saw the extreme pressure people are under if they didn’t have insurance cover or if their insurance policies do not cover flooding. To help those people, we are providing additional money to those not covered by house insurance.”
Upon announcing this emergency funding, Drakeford demanded a response from the UK Government as to what assistance it could provide to the communities affected. In response, prime minister Boris Johnson said that the “Government is committed to working flat out with the Welsh devolved administration to ensure everybody gets the flood relief that they need…And that cash, yes, of course, will certainly be passported through.”
Meanwhile, a letter signed by four Labour MPs for South Wales constituencies and three Labour Assembly Members has been sent to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, seeking a year-long suspension of council tax and business rates in affected properties and a £30 million grant which would be used to fund the repair and restoration work across Rhondda Cynon Taff and, one of the worst affected regions in Wales.
Additionally, following a landslide in Tylorstown in the Rhondda valley, MPs from Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party have written to Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, to call for a review of coal sites across South Wales and a commitment to provide funding for any work to ensure that all sites are safe.