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The Senedd debated 6,017 signature petition to hold an independent Public inquiry into Flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf

The Senedd debated the petition signed – “An independent inquiry into the 2020 flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf so that lessons are learned.”

 

The petition was debated by the Senedd in Plenary on 9 December 2020. The Petitions Committee will consider the petition again in the future, in light of the discussion during the debate.

 

So will there be a Public Inquiry into the flooding in Borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf or will the 6,017 signature petition just go into the archives never to be seen again?  Labour who has a majority thanks to a few who transferred their loyalty from their own parties to support Labour in the Welsh Assembly or as it is now called the Senedd. An independent inquiry is something the Labour Party will want to avoid at all costs; if you need any proof of this you have to look no further than your own Rhondda Cynon Taf Labour councillor’s who voted against an independent inquiry so much for your local councillors who voted against holding a Public Inquiry.

Why would the RCT Labour councillors vote against independent inquiry? Most of you would be aware of the reasons Labour has been running RCT Council bar for the blip when Plaid Cymru held the rains for one period. So why would Labour not want an Independent Inquiry perhaps the reason is this “The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 places a responsibility upon Local Authorities, (as Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs)), to develop, maintain, apply and monitor a strategy for local flood risk management (Local Strategy).” And then there is Natural Resources Wales who are accountable to the Labour-run Senedd another reason Labour’s Lesley Griffiths MS Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs would not want an inquiry.

 

I expect everyone has their idea of what caused the flooding in their area local knowledge is always handy especially when some official comes along and takes no notice of your comments or just blanks you. Much of the flooding is down to the lack of maintenance, and the explanation by the authority would be austerity and government cuts. Would the answers to that be the waste of public money by the Labour administration £150 Million on the M4 and £39 million dodgy land deals to name but two?

 

Global warming wetter winters and RCTC still allows development on floodplains you have to as the question why? Tir Founder Fields, Cwmbach was a large floodplain now developed with more development coming, common sense will tell you water has to go somewhere further down the valley the railway line gets flooded when we get a period of heavy rain.

https://www.rctcbc.gov.uk/EN/Resident/ParkingRoadsandTravel/Roadspavementsandpaths/FloodAlleviation/RelatedDocuments/FloodRiskManagementPlanFinal.pdf

https://www.rctcbc.gov.uk/EN/Resident/ParkingRoadsandTravel/Roadspavementsandpaths/FloodAlleviation/RelatedDocuments/FloodRiskManagementAppendicies.pdf

https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-06/local-flood-risk-management-strategies.pdf

RCT Council meeting 16th DECEMBER 2020

MEMBERS QUESTIONS ON NOTICE

 

Question 20

 

From County Borough Councillor M Griffiths to the Leader of the Council, County Borough Councillor A Morgan:

“Has the planning policy of RCT Council been adapted to respond to the challenges of climate change and, in particular, does RCT Council have a policy relating to development on flood plains and a policy relating to the replacement of trees which are removed to make way for development?”

 

RCTC Replying  on Twitter to the above question

@AberdareOnline

“Hi there, please email planningservices@rctcbc.gov.uk and the team will be able to assist”

 

Replying to

@RCTCouncil

The question was number 20 on your list in your full council meeting yesterday I would assume someone answered it just looking for the answer.

 

@RCTCouncil

“Hi there, members questions has a 20 minute time limit, number 20 fell outside of this limit so was not discussed in yesterday's Council meeting.”

 

My reply

@RCTCouncil

So time ran out so will the leader of the council as the question was directed at him will he to provide a written answer? As there will be many who would want to know as there is more development proposed on Aberaman floodplain with the problems the last development has caused

 

No response from RCTC

 

There is almost a guarantee that there will not be an Independent Inquiry into the flooding in RCT that’s how Labour runs our council and Wales not open and accountable, unfortunately.

 

If you want your flood-related stores aired on the internet send them to info@aberdareonline.co.uk  I know of people that can't sleep when it rains after experiencing flooding problems.

 

P-05-1010 An independent inquiry into the 2020 flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf so that lessons are learned

 

This petition was submitted by Heledd Fychan having collected 274 signatures on paper and 5,743 online, a total of 6,017 signatures. https://www.pontypridd-plaid.wales/heledd_fychan

 

Text of Petition:                     

We, the undersigned, urge the Welsh Government to initiate a full, independent, open and public inquiry into the 2020 flooding of homes and businesses across Rhondda Cynon Taf, and that appropriate steps are taken to rectify any issues so that similar damage can be prevented from reoccurring.

 

Additional Information

People and businesses across Rhondda Cynon Taf need an inquiry into the flooding that has hit so many of our communities this year, with some affected three times since February. It is time for the voices and experiences of the people and businesses of Pontypridd, Treforest, Taff’s Well, Trehafod, Cilfynydd, Rhydyfelin, Nantgarw, Hawthorn, Hirwaun, Abercwmboi, Mountain Ash, Pentre, Treorchy, Treherbert, Maerdy, Porth and others to be heard, so that lessons are learned for the future.

 

Senedd Constituency and Region

•          Pontypridd

•          South Wales Central

 

Janet Finch-Saunders

 

Diolch, Llywydd. The petition we are debating this afternoon collected 6,017 signatures and calls for an independent inquiry to be held into the terrible flooding earlier this year. This petition was submitted by Councillor Heledd Fychan, who represents the Pontypridd Town ward on Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.309

February 2020 saw some of Wales’s worst flooding on record. On 16 and 17 February, Storm Dennis caused widespread floods, reportedly impacting more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Rhondda Cynon Taf alone. Sadly, it was not an isolated event because the area experienced further flooding at the end of February and again in June.310

Now, as a Member myself who represents a constituency that has also been badly hit by flooding in recent times, I have every sympathy for people whose homes and businesses have been affected by these now very frequent events, and a similar personal desire to help to prevent similar incidents in future.311

Now, when we discussed the petition, the members of the Petitions Committee were moved by the heartbreaking personal stories that we received, which really helped to bring home the huge personal impact that incidents such as these have. Of course, a member of our committee, my colleague, Leanne Wood MS, has been directly involved in supporting her constituents who have been affected by these tragic events. I'm also aware that Mick Antoniw, alongside Alex Davies-Jones MP, have also recently published their own report into the impact of the flooding, demonstrating that these are cross-party matters that need addressing.312

The petition calls for a full, independent, open and public inquiry into the flooding. It argues that this is necessary in order to ensure that appropriate steps are taken so that similar damage can be prevented in the future. In response, the Minister wrote to the Petitions Committee to say that she does not feel that an independent inquiry is required at this stage. The Minister told us that it is the responsibility of the local flood risk management authority to produce section 19 flood investigation reports following any incidents of flooding. She outlined the investigatory work already being carried out by Natural Resources Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf council to assess the causes of the floods and to make recommendations for how flood risk can be reduced. I understand that the Welsh Government's position is therefore that it wishes to consider the statutory reports before deciding whether any further inquiry or review is required. So, I do hope that the Minister today will be able to expand on this position later on in this debate.313

As I referred to earlier, the Petitions Committee has also received further comments from the petitioners, including a large number of personal testimonials gathered from local residents. These detail both the personal and the economic costs being borne by the people and businesses directly. Other Members will, I am sure, wish to cover the impact of the floods on their constituents. Therefore, I will use the rest of these remarks to refer to a few of the main points outlined by the petitioners.314

Firstly, the petitioner argues that the section 19 report process has significant limitations. These include effectively asking local authorities to investigate themselves, given the important role that they play in local flood prevention, and because there are limited opportunities for local people to be part of those processes. Secondly, the petitioners believe that a broader perspective should be taken. They consider that an independent inquiry would be able to consider wider issues and lessons, including the declaration of a climate emergency, and the impact that these events have had on both the local economy and the health and well-being of residents. Overall, the petitioners question whether the existing reports referred to by the Minister have enough and sufficient scope to explore these issues fully, and to inform flood prevention work both in these communities and indeed across the whole of Wales.315

In concluding these opening remarks, the Petitions Committee is now looking forward to hearing the contributions of other Members affected by flooding during this debate, and will return to consider the petition further in light of them. The petitioners have been very clear in their view that an independent review or inquiry is the only way to learn the lessons that will certainly help to prevent these types of flooding incidents from happening again, and to provide the reassurance that communities in Rhondda Cynon Taf not only need, but they deserve. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide further explanations this afternoon in response to this point and others that are raised during the debate. I welcome all the contributions that other Members wish to make. Diolch, Llywydd.

 

Andrew R T Davies

 

I rise to support the sentiments of the petition, because I do think it's really important that the lessons-learned exercise is complete and does take in all the aspects that residents, businesses and everyone affected by these terrible floods in February 2020 and other flooding incidents that followed it are learnt, because the scale of the flooding was beyond recognition. I can well remember visiting various areas and just seeing the total devastation, whether it be domestic properties, whether it be businesses, or whether is just be the allotments that you can see off the A48 in the Pontypridd constituency, just completely washed away, showing the force of the water and the extent of the damage. And it's not just water when flooding hits those residential properties; it's this raw sewage that comes up through the drains and completely devastates the properties beyond habitable use until they're rectified and put back to good measure.317

Obviously, what we have here are many public sector organisations who did their best; without a shadow of a doubt, they did try their best in the aftermath to do what they could to help the communities that were affected, whether that be in the Rhondda or any other part of South Wales Central, but there are lessons to be learnt here. The warning system, as we know from some of the early indications from NRW, failed in many instances, and if you can't get the basic warning system right, what hope have you got of making sure that the more structural changes that you need to make to flood prevention measures are put in place, such as cleaning the culverts out and making sure the waterways are clear? These are some of the basic things that used to go on by the river boards and agencies that used to exist some 20, 30 years ago, which were taken for granted at the time, and allowed water to flow relatively freely.318

It is a fact that we are going to see more incidents like this. It is a fact that since time immemorial there have been flooding events, but many of the communities that were affected by the events in February and other events through 2020 have maybe never even seen flooding before. So, there are some administrative issues that need to be checked, there is a follow-through exercise, and only an inquiry will get to the bottom of those issues, which has the power of Government to create that inquiry, and probe and pull together those public bodies from the local authorities, the health boards, NRW and the economic impact in particular in those communities where businesses were so devastated, as well as the domestic living conditions wiped away from many individuals and families. We can all remember the image of the landslide that happened, and there's much work to still do in that particular area, and that's where the two Governments, the Westminster Government and the Welsh Government, need to be working together to address that particular issue.319

So, that's why I rise to support the call for a public inquiry, because I do think it is only through a public inquiry, and the weight of the report of that public inquiry, that we can make the changes that will be required, we can reflect on what did work, but invariably we can reflect and remedy the things that didn't work. So, I do hope that the Government will be more positive, rather than just saying they're still waiting for various administrative reports to come in from all the various organisations that are marking their own homework. That will not be good enough for the residents I represent in South Wales Central, and I do call on the Government to act more positively in response to this request from the petition today.

 

 

Leanne Wood

'Our motion makes a very simple ask—one that I am amazed but not surprised that Ministers are running from: that we have an investigation to learn the lessons from the floods,...to protect more homes and businesses...look at...affordable insurance...and...timely pay-outs, an investigation into what measures are required from Government to fund flood protections and upstream catchment management measures and to resource emergency responses.'321

Those are not my words—they are the words of the Labour MP for Plymouth. He was speaking in a debate in March of this year into flooding in England. In that debate, the MP pointed out that they could have been nakedly political, attacking the Government for their failures, or, and I quote,322

'Labour chose to rise above that partisan debate, which is why every single Member of the House should feel able to support our motion. How is learning the lessons from an incident—in a review of what actions took place, what actions did not work as well as was hoped and of where improvements could be made—not a sensible and proportionate step to take after a national emergency such as the recent floods?'323

All MPs in the Valleys voted to back an inquiry into flooding in England, yet in Wales, where Labour have the power to instigate one, the position has been to oppose an inquiry. They voted it down at the local authority and Labour Ministers in this Government have opposed it too. In June of this year, during an interview with ITV Wales, one Labour MP described an independent inquiry into flooding in the Rhondda as324

'just about the daftest idea I have heard'.325

Perhaps he had forgotten that he'd voted for an inquiry into flooding in England just three months earlier.326

It's not surprising that people do not have confidence in a process where authorities investigate themselves. They've seen enough buck passing, and different organisations absolving themselves of responsibility. People in the Rhondda can remember being told time and time again during the 1990s by the Labour council that Nant-y-Gwyddon landfill site was safe. Residents complained for years that that tip was causing illnesses, and Plaid Cymru supported those residents in their campaign. An inquiry subsequently recommended the closure of that tip, and we would not have had that result without that combination of people power and political pressure.327

Those who oppose an independent inquiry argue that it would take too long and it would be too expensive. It needn't be either of those things. You cannot put a price on safeguarding people and their homes. You also cannot put a price on giving people the peace of mind that has been absent for so many since February of this year. The woman from Treorchy who has been repeatedly flooded and now cannot sleep when it rains at night—there are so many stories like this, and an inquiry would get to the root causes, and it would be our best shot of coming up with lasting solutions.328

I implore all Members of this Senedd, but especially those of you who've not been minded to support an inquiry to date, that it is not too late to do the right thing. It is not too late to put those people who've been affected by the floods first. A vote in favour of this motion today will strengthen the case for an inquiry that will identify what went wrong and why. That is how a vote in favour of this motion will be interpreted in the Rhondda. An inquiry can work out how much finance is needed, it can identify where we need to invest in flood defences and flood prevention measures in future. We know that extreme weather is predicted to be more frequent because of the climate crisis, and we need to be prepared. The only way to ensure that we are prepared is to fully understand what happened this year, and what needs to happen to put things right.329

I implore the Government and local representatives to work with us to support a flood inquiry today, not for my benefit, not for the benefit of Plaid Cymru, but for the many people in our communities who have been flooded this year. They should not have to go through that trauma again. Diolch.

 

Mick Antoniw

 

Diolch, Llywydd. I'm very pleased to be able to participate in this Petitions Committee debate today, because it is an opportunity to talk about the flooding that hit RCT in February, and Pontypridd, my constituency, was the most badly affected area of Rhondda Cynon Taf. So, it is an issue that I have consistently and persistently raised questions on to the First Minister and other Ministers, because although much has already been done, there is still much more to do, and I do not intend to allow those flooded communities in my constituency to be forgotten. 332

 

For each of the 321 homes and dozens of businesses that were severely flooded in Pontypridd, and for the 1,800 homes that were otherwise affected, action is the key word. Winter is here and the anniversary of the floods is approaching fast. People are understandably anxious for the future, and the fear of further flooding is traumatic and must not be underestimated. So, I do not believe that my constituents want anything to get in the way of the progress that we are already making, and the work that is currently in hand.333

 

Public inquiries have their place, but an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, a statutory inquiry, is expensive, it is time consuming and it is a very bureaucratic process, and I know from practical experience that a public inquiry will take at least a year—in all likelihood, at least 18 months—and would be unlikely to add very much to what we already know about the information that we already have from the inquiry report already published by Natural Resources Wales, or what we will know, certainly in my constituency, from the eight section 19 inquiry reports that we're expecting some time in early January. It is vitally important that we have the opportunity to consider those reports, because they will enable immediate action to be taken on top of the action that is already under way. 334

 

I do understand the well-intentioned demands for a public inquiry, but it won't change what needs to be done. A public inquiry, in my view, will only delay what needs to be done now, and if I thought a public inquiry would deliver any benefit to the communities I represent, I would support it. At this moment in time, it is not the right step. It may be appropriate to consider once we have those section 19 reports, but now is not that moment in time.335

 

So, as I say, our focus has got to be on action, and there has been progress. Considerable repair work has been carried out by RCT council, Welsh Water and NRW. RCT council, together with Welsh Government, has also been exploring the potential for a local business insurance scheme, and I want to see that develop. And I'm grateful to the environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths, who has committed millions of pounds of Welsh Government resources to ensure that the preparatory work being carried out by RCT council can go ahead whilst we await the UK Government's decision to make good on its promise of £70 million to £80 million of funding to repair key infrastructure. I'm also very grateful to the Moondance charity, who made a generous donation of £100,000 to help support over 100 of the most immediately affected families there. Also, I'm very grateful for recent interventions by the mental health Minister, Eluned Morgan, for her work with Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board in respect of ensuring that mental health and support services are available to the local community.336

 

Can I also put on record my thanks to all those councillors and community workers and residents who did so much during the course of the flooding? Now, in the immediate aftermath of the floods, I visited those communities with the First Minister and along with the local MP in Pontypridd, Alex Davies-Jones. We've held over 30 public and private meetings with residents and local businesses. The most recent was this week. The views and experiences of the residents are set out in a very detailed report that has been circulated amongst all those who were immediately affected by the flooding. My most immediate concern is that no home that would reasonably benefit from flood resilience measures, such as, for example, floodgates, should be prevented from having them because of cost, and I'm pleased that the Minister, in response to questions from me, has confirmed that funding is available. I'm glad also that RCT council have already had confirmation that their application for funding and that discussions with NRW on a similar scheme for similar measures in flood-risk areas is under discussion with the Minister, and I'd be grateful if the Minister would provide an update on those discussions.337

 

Now, there is still much to do. Insurance is a real issue, with businesses who suffered damage running into tens of millions finding it difficult to get cover, and we must hold the UK Government to its promise of financial support, and I hope that every Member here is as determined as I that they will. We must urgently progress the introduction of flood-resilience measures, such as floodgates, with NRW, and progress other important issues identified in our Pontypridd flood report. Such an improved flood warning system is important, and the introduction of community flood ambassadors and, we also believe, the introduction of regular flood drills. These are the actions that the communities in Pontypridd have raised with me that I want to focus on, and I can assure them that these objectives will continue to be my priority. Diolch, Llywydd.

 

Lesley Griffiths

 

Diolch, Llywydd. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to this petition, seeking an independent inquiry into the flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf. I witnessed myself first hand the devastating impacts of these floods, and, without the swift action of our risk management authorities and emergency services, I am certain we would have seen even more homes flooded. We must also acknowledge how our network of defences protected thousands of properties, and the importance of keeping these structures well maintained. I of course recognise the impact on residents' well-being, as well as the effect on their homes and businesses. Knowing how those communities then had to deal with COVID-19 is heartbreaking, and has strengthened my resolve to do everything we can to help reduce future risk.340

 

This Government acted quickly and decisively in our response to make the necessary repairs and improvements. Immediately after the February storms, I provided all risk-management authorities the opportunity to apply for financial support to undertake emergency repairs to assets. I provided 100 per cent funding for this, which has totalled £4.6 million. In addition, a funding package was also made available to directly support businesses and households. So, far, the Welsh Government has provided over £9.2 million across Wales. In RCT, I awarded £1.6 million of emergency funding to repair damaged flood assets, and this was in addition to the £2.1 million grant funding towards defences and smaller schemes across the county.341

 

I've also provided funding for property resilience measures, such as floodgates, and, to date, have awarded over £1 million across Wales to benefit up to 594 properties. This includes a recent award of over £300,000 to RCT for 357 homes.342

 

Today, I've announced additional revenue support for local authorities this year, providing up to £95,000 extra per authority to support with their flood-risk activities and to help ensure that assets remain resilient over the winter. My officials have written to all local authorities with further details.343

 

In October, I published our new national flood strategy and this strengthens roles and responsibilities and sets out new objectives around communication, planning and prevention. It encourages natural flood management and adaptation, plus greater collaboration to create sustainable schemes that deliver wider well-being benefits. It's an ambitious strategy and reaffirms the importance we place on flood-risk management and the growing threat of climate change. This follows changes to funding that I announced to provide greater support and flexibility to our risk-management authorities, including 100 per cent support for natural flood-management projects and to prepare business cases for new flood and coastal schemes.344

 

I strongly agree with the contributions from Senedd Members that we have to learn the lessons from the February flooding. There must be further scrutiny and engagement of affected communities and all those who face climate risks in Wales. Local authorities have a legal duty to produce reports that investigate the causes of flooding and bring forward recommendations to further reduce risk, and these reports are public documents and are prepared by teams of highly skilled individuals. It seems from contributions from some Members that they don't have confidence in the professional integrity of those people who will prepare the report and don't have confidence in their own ability and that of communities to scrutinise their findings. But I don't share that view, and I have absolute confidence in the professionalism of local authority staff and their commitment to the safety and well-being of the communities they serve. And if Members have evidence that should cast doubt on that belief, then they have a responsibility to present it, but I've not heard any such evidence offered to date.345

 

All Members of this Senedd have a role in scrutinising those reports closely as soon as they're available and ensuring that the views and interests of their constituents are represented. And this Senedd has a role in ensuring that we do learn the lessons from those reports and apply them in national policy and local operational practice to keep Wales safe. I believe that the professionally prepared and legally required reports from local authorities will allow us to do that.346

 

Local elected Members in RCT have gone beyond this to produce their own report, as we heard from Mick Antoniw, who co-authored it with Alex Davies-Jones, the MP. The report makes it clear that residents see a number of specific areas for improvement and solutions that we can consider not only to reduce flood risk, but to help support wider well-being. Contributions of this kind are welcome and clearly show ways in which local residents can scrutinise the issues and put forward creative and constructive solutions that work for them. And I hope that other Members will consider how they can similarly support the communities to be more resilient to climate-related threats and more engaged with issues.347

 

NRW has, in addition to its statutory responsibility to produce flood investigations, published a full review in October, with a series of reports that provide a detailed account of the challenges in relation to their response and forecasting, and I would urge anyone who believes that there has been an attempt to downplay the challenges and the areas for improvement to read that review. It demonstrates not just the range and severity of the challenges we face, but, in my view, the organisation's absolute commitment to take the opportunity now to subject these challenges to public scrutiny, to work with communities to find better solutions for the future. Their conclusion was not that the report should be the end of the conversation, but very explicitly that the conversation must continue, continuing to learn the lessons of the devastating flooding in February and consider more broadly how, as a society, we prepare for the changing climate and its impact on our communities in Wales, and that's a conclusion with which I firmly agree and I hope that the Senedd would also endorse.348

 

So, I do look forward to the further scrutiny of the flood investigation report, and I look forward to working with all Senedd Members, along with local authority partners and with communities, to learn the lessons of the dreadful February floods and to better prepare ourselves for the growing challenges that Wales faces from a changing climate. Diolch.

 

Janet Finch-Saunders

 

Diolch, Llywydd. I wish to thank the petitioners and all those others who have highlighted their own personal experiences of the devastating floods and shared these not only with our Petitions Committee, but with our Members here today. Thank you for all Member contributions on such an important issue.351

I wish to thank the Minister for her response and acknowledgement of the funding that's been made available to help with defences, small schemes, floodgates, and the support to 357 homes in Rhondda Cynon Taf. All local authorities have been written to, and issues around mentioning natural flood defences in the strategy that was published recently.352

This debate has enabled important matters to be raised. We will now consider this petition in the new year and we certainly welcome any further responses coming forward from the petitioner. Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. 

Watch the debate: http://www.senedd.tv/Meeting/Archive/a0ebf581-8d41-469d-82a2-0aae3bbc724c?startPos=12474&autostart=True

Read the transcript: https://record.assembly.wales/Plenary/11042#A62973

Find details of the petition: https://business.senedd.wales/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=29229&Opt=3

The petition: https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/200109