A YORK MP has criticised the provision of sandbags by City of York Council to flooding properties.

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, organised a public meeting at Holy Trinity Church in Heworth today, where members of the Environment Agency spoke with residents about the circumstances around the flooding and the raising of the Foss Barrier, and what would be done in future.

Miss Maskell said she had been told by residents that there was not enough assistance as the flooding began, with little information and few sandbags available from the City of York Council.

She said: "The council say they don't fill sandbags until they are needed which I think is a reactive response. You need them when you need them and a lot of people I have spoken to say they got sandbags when the water level was already going down.

"The resources weren't on the ground very evidently when you needed them. If the authority cannot organise at the time of a crisis what hope do you have?"

But, speaking after the meeting, Councillor Chris Steward, leader of City of York Council, told The Press: "It's fair to say that we, like all authorities, do not have filled sandbags all year round for maximum capacity. We have an amount in York that are made up, and an amount in York in terms of sand we can fill, and when something like this happens, we can call in a lot more."

About 50 local residents attended the meeting this morning to ask questions and raise concerns with Miss Maskell and members of the Environment Agency.

John Knight, flood incident management team leader, told the residents all eight pumps at the Foss Barrier had been working at full capacity as the floods began, but were unable to cope with 30,000 litres of water per second at the river's height, and water in the control meant the decision had to be made to shut them down and protect the electrics from floodwater.

York Press:

An Army helicopter airlifts equipment to repair the Foss barrier.

Mr Knight also said the decision to raise the barrier, which was made at about 6.30pm on Boxing Day, was the right one, but acknowledged the EA was "still trying to find out how water got in" to the pump room.

He said: "Properties were already flooding and we could see by the rate of rise in the Foss if we hadn't done anything we knew the Foss would have got to the top of the Ouse defences and effectively created a dam in the city of York, which is probably the worst case scenario anyone could plan for.

"With the barrier down, we would have created a dam and the level would have risen until it came over the Ouse defences even with the pumps running. The flows were greatly in excess of anything we have ever recorded before."

Mr Knight said he wanted to ensure more people signed up to the free flood warning service, which phones residents at risk ahead of flooding to give them time to prepare or leave their homes.