Drainage problems threaten top show

A WEST Yorkshire show is in danger of being cancelled indefinitely because of site problems resulting from flood alleviation works.

Todmorden Agricultural Show was one of only a few across Yorkshire that was able to go ahead this year amid the deluges that saw the Great Yorkshire Show and a number of smaller events rained off.

But now a question mark hangs over its viability next year due to drainage problems on the site, in the town’s Centre Vale Park – which has also been used as a flood storage area since 2007.

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Todmorden Agricultural Society member and sheep section secretary Margaret Wood said the show had suffered losses this year because of the wet summer, which it would struggle to sustain again.

The group must make a decision about whether to go ahead with next year’s show – traditionally held on the third Saturday in June – by December in order to protect reserves.

“Thousands of pounds of deposits are now due on marquee hire and other pre-show expenses,” said Mrs Wood.

“With the absence of a good drainage system, to allow the park to dry out thoroughly by mid-June, the weather would have to be settled and dry from early March onwards.”

The Environment Agency completed the flood storage scheme in 2007 and it helps to reduce the risk of river flooding to 220 homes in the town.

A gate is opened to allow water in to the park when levels in the River Calder reach two metres, and when levels drop it empties automatically back into the waterway.

A drainage system underneath the grass is supposed to control groundwater levels in the park.

But Mrs Wood said there were “serious problems” with it and normal rainfall was no longer draining away properly.

“The result is that rushes, mosses and wetland grasses are now establishing naturally on the very boggy surface,” she said.

Attempts had been made by Calderdale Council, which owns the park, to improve conditions, she added.

“But the stark fact is they have not been effective and the problem is escalating,” she said. “The wet summer of 2012 cannot be blamed because the ground has undergone gradual deterioration since the completion of the work some years ago.

“In order to plan safely for future events, users want to see some action now to ensure good drainage of the ground.”

Adam Tunningley, at the Environment Agency, said: “We are aware of the problems affecting the park and have employed a specialist contractor to undertake a full survey of the drainage system.

“This has identified a number of minor defects, and we are now assessing the causes and what can be done.

“We will be working with Calderdale Council to determine who is best placed to manage any necessary repairs.”

A council spokesman added: “Calderdale Council is working with the Environment Agency and Todmorden Agricultural Society to review the situation and look into what works may be needed.”