£150,000 lifeline saves flooding defences from soaring costs

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A FINANCIAL lifeline has been thrown to a pioneering flood defence project in Yorkshire after the cost escalated owing to concerns over the initial designs.

The Environment Agency was forced to ask Ryedale District Council to provide another £150,000 to tackle flooding in one of North Yorkshire’s blackspots.

Councillors have now voted unanimously to provide the extra funding to ensure that the scheme, which had initially been expected to cost £950,000, remains on track.

Ryedale District Council’s leader Keith Knaggs admitted that he was disappointed that the authority had been called on to provide more funding, but he stressed that the defence scheme is vital to protect Pickering.

He added: “It’s sad that the council’s contribution has to be topped up.

“But thanks to good management and political foresight, we’re able to do extra things at Ryedale whilst other councils are proclaiming the end of the world.

“We can provide this money. Without it, this scheme – which saves at least 65 homes and a number of businesses from all but the most extreme floods – simply would not happen.”

The flood defence project to provide additional protection to Pickering and the nearby village of Sinnington is seen as a blueprint that could be used for other upland communities across the country.

But the Yorkshire Post revealed last month that the cost of the £950,000 scheme was due to rise considerably.

The cost of the project, to build earth dams which will be capable of containing up to 18m gallons of water from Pickering Beck, has increased because the design of the embankments have had to be revised and that has forced up costs.

Engineers had voiced concerns that the embankments could actually have made major flooding events worse by holding back a large volume of water that could suddenly be released if the defences were breached.

Campaigners had claimed that any increase in the scheme’s cost could place its future in danger amid the massive cutbacks in public spending.

The project is already being financed by £800,000 from the district council, a further £100,000 from the local flood levy and £50,000 from the Environment Agency.

The Slowing the Flow scheme in Ryedale was one of three projects nationally which were awarded a total of £1m in government funding in 2009.

The schemes aim to use nature to combat flooding and represent a major shift from engineering solutions back to techniques such as planting new woodland to slow run-off.

A total of £700,000 is being used to finance other elements of the Ryedale project such as tree-planting and the introduction of mini-dams in the watercourses.

However, the embankments, which will stretch for more than half-a-mile at a height of 5ft, are seen as one of the key parts of the overall scheme.

The Environment Agency’s project manager, Lucy Huckson, welcomed the council’s pledge to put in the additional money.

She also confirmed that a planning application has been submitted to the North York Moors National Park Authority and North Yorkshire County Council, which will both have the responsibility of deciding if the scheme should be allowed to go ahead.

Planning permission has already been obtained for preparatory work, which is starting this month.

The main construction programme of the earth dams is due to begin in the summer, if planning permission is secured.