CAMPAIGNERS have heralded the start of construction work which begins next week to protect a notorious flooding hotspot more than two years after earlier plans were dropped because of escalating costs.
An earth bund will be going up round 37 acres of land two miles above Pickering to provide flood storage, the final piece of a wider £2m scheme designed to slow down the flow of water running into Pickering Beck and the town.
Over the past decade three schemes have been abandoned because of cost, most recently a £3.5m project in 2011.
The Slowing the Flow Partnership’s chairman, Jeremy Walker, claimed he was delighted to at last have an affordable scheme and residents had commented that land management measures, which have already been installed as part of an innovative “greener” approach, appeared to be working.
As well as the reservoir, 150 woody debris dams have been installed in river tributaries, and over 120 heather bales to block moorland grips. Nearly 100 acres of new trees have been planted and no burn zones established to slow down run off from the moors and two large timber bunds constructed, as part of what is one of three demonstration projects, being run by the Government nationally.
Experts claim it will reduce the chances of flooding in Pickering – which has flooded three times in recent years – from 25 per cent in any one year, to four per cent or less and it should give at least 50 houses increased flood protection.
Mr Walker said: “At the end of November 2012 Pickering got to within an inch or two of being flooded. A lot of people said they had observed the beck and river behaving differently – it came up more slowly and went down more slowly. People in Sinnington were saying that hadn’t it been for the measures they thought the village would flood again.”
Mr Walker said the Commons Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, chaired by Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh, was taking a keen interest.
He said: “The project is pioneering in Yorkshire a new approach to managing flood risk which puts the focus on working with nature, and combining this with modest but carefully planned engineering. This is more environmentally friendly and relatively low cost – a green approach which can be a real win/win.
“More widely, as climate change brings more frequent and extreme rainfall events, working with nature to manage better the flow of water into our rivers has the potential to add extra capacity at the margin to existing flood defence systems.”
The total cost of the scheme will be over £2m, once maintenance costs for the next 50 years are factored in.
A key feature of the new plan is to use excavated clay from other projects in North Yorkshire, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in the cost of materials.
Mr Walker said: “I am very grateful to many local people and organisations for their support, especially Ryedale Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the Yorkshire Flood and Coastal Committee who have put up most of the money, and to Pickering Town Council who have agreed to help meet the on-going costs of future maintenance.
“We have also worked very closely with the North York Moors Railway, whose positive and constructive approach has been a key factor in producing the new design.”
Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: “This scheme will significantly reduce the chance of flooding in the town and give much needed relief to local residents and businesses, helping to build a stronger economy.
“Our investment is part of a £2.3bn national programme to tackle the risk of flooding and means that more money than ever is being spent to better protect communities like Pickering.”