Go-ahead likely for town’s flood defence plan hit by soaring costs

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A LONG-AWAITED defence scheme to protect a notorious flooding blackspot is set to be built after park authority planners recommended it is given the go-ahead.

The ambitious project to protect scores of homes and businesses in Pickering, North Yorkshire, has been blighted by a series of delays and escalating costs.

The scheme had initially been expected to cost £1.3m, but it had to be put on hold when the figure soared. The scheme, has had to be redesigned and is now set to cost in the region of £2m, and earlier this year the Government backed the scheme.

Pickering was hit by severe floods four times in eight years, with millions of pounds worth 
of damage done to homes and shops and on Thursday members of the North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning 
committee will meet to decide whether to give the project the go-ahead.

The Environment Agency is seeking planning permission for the project which will see two embankments built, together with a reinforced concrete control structure and the realignment of Pickering Beck, which runs through the town.

The work is due to be carried out at the Duchy of Lancaster’s estate at Blansby Park, some three miles north of the town in the North York Moors National Park.

In a report to the planning committee, officers from the park authority say: “Pickering has a long history of flooding with major flood events recorded in 1930, 1979, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2007 causing considerable damage to property.”

“The nature of the flood is 
exacerbated by the steep nature of the catchment area for Pickering Beck leading to flash summer floods.

“The Environment Agency also believes that previous land management practices including forestry, open moorland drainage, overstocking, overgrazing and poor run-off management have enhanced the flood risk to Pickering.”

The new scheme includes the building of earth mounds and creating wood debris dams, tree planting and farm management action to restrict the flow of flood water from the moors into Pickering Beck.

However some concerns have been raised about the project. 
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has said it objects to the current proposal saying: “The proposed summer delivering 
of construction materials will disrupt the operation of the railway and conflict with Pickering market day.

“The upgrading of the track crossing point at Hunting Bridge will take several days of closure of the railway.”

But support has been given by Pickering Town Council, the Ramblers’ Association and Natural England, the Government’s conservation agency.

Officers are recommending that the project is given the go-ahead saying: “The proposal for a bunded flood storage scheme will result in a significant benefit to residents and businesses in Pickering through reducing flood risk.

“It is acknowledged that the scheme will have a modest impact on the landscape on this part of the park, and some residents during construction. However, it is considered that the benefits far outweigh the harm.”

An environment report has recommended that before work starts there should be a survey carried out on the presence of badgers and otters in the area.

The report, to be considered by the planning committee, says the application will also be considered by North Yorkshire County Council.

Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk, Malton, and Filey, who has been a key campaigner for action to create flood alleviation measures at Pickering, said it was a pioneering venture which, if successful, could be replicated in other flood hit areas in the country.

“It will be environmentally friendly, and I believe, affective,” she said.