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Hebden Bridge Partnership: holding the Environment Agency to account while shaping the future of Hebden Bridge

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

From Bob Deacon

The Hebden Bridge Partnership has been holding the Environment Agency to account while shaping the future of Hebden Bridge.

Partnership AGM

Bob Deacon, retiring chair of the Hebden Bridge Partnership, in his annual report to its AGM on 24 October, looks back on a very effective year of the partnership but adds there is a lot to be done in 2017. Bob reports the main achievements of the past year as:

  • Holding the Environment Agency and CMBC to account for work to reduce the risk and impact of further flooding.
  • Launching a funded campaign to make Hebden Bridge Accessible for all.
  • Encouraging and welcoming visitors to the town with its third Welcome to Hebden Bridge brochure.
  • Designing a potential development plan for the Valley Road site and begun to engage CMBC and the owners of the Fire Station site in realising it.
  • Supporting the work of the Calder Valley Community Land Trust in obtaining land for affordable housing
  • Facilitating the further development of the open air market in Hebden Bridge by consulting the town on its move to Lees Yard and by increasing the number of market days

The Hebden Bridge Partnership has nine priorities: concerned with

  • traffic safety and the town centre,
  • making Hebden Bridge accessible for all,
  • developing the market,
  • improving the visitor economy,
  • planning the future of Valley Road now Sainsbury are not building there,
  • building affordable housing,
  • improving public transport,
  • improving the Calder Holmes Park and Memorial Gardens
  • ensuring a low-carbon Hebden Bridge.

In 2016, however responding to the Floods became its 10th and most urgent priority. Indeed the majority of public meetings in this year have been devoted to the Floods.

In January 2016 we convened the first meeting to report on the impact of the floods on the town centre and to review and work on how individuals and business would be helped to recover from the Floods.

The Flood Save scheme, taken up by the Community Foundation for Calderdale arose from that meeting.

The Hebden Bridge Partnership Comprehensive submission to the Flood Commission was developed from this also.

In April a second public meeting was convened with speakers from Calderdale, Environment Agency, Community Foundation for Calderdale and the Flood Commission. The third public meeting in July 2016 also dealt with the floods with the Environment Agency setting out their plans for the Calder catchment area a whole and for defensive works in Hebden Bridge in particular.

The Hebden Bridge Partnership has been instrumental in ensuring that both the Environment Agency and Calderdale are more accessible and open to account than in the period following the 2012 floods.

In terms of the CMBC/EA Flood Resilience Board, which has overarching authority to work on flood resilience and flood prevention, this board now (since September 2016) meets in public.

In terms of the EA Calder Catchment Plan, after a meeting of the Chair with its convenor, Helen Batt, working party meetings involving interested members of the community are now the established way of working. The plan produced in October 2016 reflects this. In terms of the detailed flood defences work for Hebden Bridge the HBP was instrumental in Simon Byrne of the EA setting up a HB Stakeholder Group which has met once and will meet in the future to determine the shape of HB flood built defences.

Bob hopes a new chair will come forward at the AGM to take the reigns for a busy period ahead. He suggests the priorities for 2017 are:

  • To continue to hold the EA and CMBC to account regarding flood resilience and defence work. Importantly plans for any walled defences within HB WILL be laid down and the HBP needs to play a leading role in ensuring these are compatible with the Hebden Water continuing to be an amenity for residents and visitors. Glass walls and/or electronic moveable flood barriers need to be in the mix.
  • To complete the accessibility work so that in 2018 HB can be advertised not only as a Walkers are welcome town but also a disability friendly town.
  • To expand, with business sponsorship, a town visitor brochure. Consideration should be given, in my opinion, to the appointment of a town centre manager.
  • To work with HRTC, CMBC, and developers to ensure a new development of the Valley Road site that HB can be proud of.
  • To maintain good relations with the town council and work with CMBC to see the establishment in 2017 of a properly funded Hebden Bridge Development Board with representation on it not only on Calderdale Councillors and the Hebden Royd Town Council but also the Hebden Bridge Partnership and Hebden Bridge Community Association and the Business Forum. Calderdale has already agreed in principle after representation by the Hebden Bridge Partnership to such a Board being open to the public with equal status of all members.

The full report and AGM details are at www.hbpartnership.org.uk