Video: The floods and the fury – residents storm out of chaotic meeting

The panel watch as a man storms out of the Barbican meeting in protest. The papers he flung at them can be seen at the bottom of the picture. Photograph: Jack Gevertz

A public meeting on the recent flooding in York descended into chaos when local residents began leaving in protest at the way it was being run.

Film footage shot by YorkMix shows one man shouting “You’re all crap” and throwing paper as he was escorted out of the Barbican Centre on Paragon Street.

Others branded the meeting a “waste of time” and a “PR exercise”.

Officials from the City of York Council (CYC), Environment Agency (EA), BT and rescue services were being quizzed on the Boxing Day floods which hit more than 500 properties and businesses in the local area.

At the start of the meeting on Friday evening (January 15), Mark Scott, from the EA, apologised to those victims of the flooding and said he would attempt to address their concerns over the course of the two hour event.

But as it got going, angry residents demanded answers rather than “detail”.

‘We just want answers’

About half of the 150 people at the meeting were directly affected by the flooding hitting their homes. Others were indirectly affected with damage to their businesses or were volunteers helping during the clear-up operation.

In one exchange caught on camera, a local resident can be heard shouting: “We don’t want detail. We just want answers. Never-mind laughing. This isn’t a joke. Did you get flooded?”

He then goes on to say:

Why was the yard shut? A young lady was 20 weeks pregnant delivering sandbags at one o’clock in the morning.

She couldn’t go back and get anymore because the council shut the yard.

I was the only person there putting sandbags out. None of the council.

Later during the exchange, the man who asked the question interjects to say: “Why did you close the yard?”. A council official replies by saying: “I haven’t got the answers to that sir.”

The man can then be seen leaving the centre. He says: “There you go that’s what you need to be reading” before throwing paper at the panel.

“Four days I had all that done. You’re all crap”.

Six boxes of belongings left

Mark Scott, regional director from the Environment Agency, tells the Barbican meeting how the floods unfolded. Photograph: City of York Council
Mark Scott, regional director from the Environment Agency, tells the Barbican meeting how the floods unfolded. Photograph: City of York Council

Questions being asked by the floor included those on emergency telephone information, immediate response when officials knew the River Foss and River Ouse were going to flood and the decision by the Environment Agency to raise the Foss flood barrier.

After Mark Scott outlined the series of events that took place before and during the flooding, a woman, who was left with only six boxes of belongings after the water hit her home, asked: “Whose responsibility was it once you realised there was a problem with the barrier?

We were the first to be hit, and there was nobody outside my house. Nobody banged on my door. So somebody knew.

When that water came rushing into my house so fast because that was scary and I’m not easily scared.

One man in the meeting said he would not be able to make an insurance claim because the decision to raise the Foss barrier meant it was no longer treated as an “act of God”.

Another woman, during a separate exchange, asked for each panel member to provide answers to the questions. “If you can’t, please say ‘no we can’t’ and at least then we know where we stand.”

Audience walk-out

Throughout the event, which began at 6pm and ended at 8pm, various members of the audience began to walk out. One member told the panel that it was the “worst form of PR” he had seen.

At the end, York’s MPs Rachael Maskell and Julian Sturdy told those left to contact them if they needed assistance such as with insurance claims.

Outside, Graham Martin, from the York People’s Assembly, gathered alongside a group of demonstrators to protest against the cuts to flood defences. They also launched a petition.

Chris Steward, the leader of CYC, was not on the panel but sat at the front of the audience.

Those who were on the panel included Steve Stewart, the chief executive of CYC, Commander Phil Cain, from North Yorkshire Police, Dave Dryburgh from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and Tom Keeney, the BT Regional Director.

The meeting in Tweets