Action plan to tackle problems caused by flooding at Morton-on-Swale

Flooding on the A684 at Morton-on-Swale. Photo: Katie Cameron.

An action plan is being developed to avert thousands of motorists rat-running through villages when the country’s fastest flowing river floods an A-road between a county town and one of Yorkshire’s busiest industrial estates.

A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s Richmond constituency committee was shown maps of a lengthy diversion featuring permanent signs, taking motorists to Scotch Corner and Bedale every time the River Swale bursts its banks and deluges the A864 at Morton Flatts, near Northallerton.

Councillors were told while the “key strategic route” between the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors national parks had been closed five times over the past two years.

Officers highlighted how cars had been abandoned in the floods, frustrated drivers had taken it upon themselves to take down signs, while many motorists ignored the authority’s diversion route involving other A-roads and instead used country lanes, passing through villages such as Kirby Fleetham and Scruton.

The meeting heard with 12,000 vehicles a day passing between Northallerton and the A1(M) and a significant proportion of motorists ignoring the “official diversion route”, there resulted in increased speeds through villages, damage to the lanes and people’s homes.

Residents attending the meeting said as workers travelling to Leeming Bar Industrial Estate often started from 5am and the council’s response to overnight flooding was often several hours later, villages became inundated with traffic at antisocial hours.

A highways officer told the meeting: “We are not abe to stop that traffic, we can only advise them on which is the appropriate route to take.”

To help counter the situation, the authority is set to install new and additional signs at Romanby to Warlaby crossroads this summer and is working to develop a bespoke electronic warning sign system ,similar to one which measures water levels that has been successful beside the A684 near Aysgarth in Wensleydale.

Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said the system beside the River Ure worked “exceptionally well” in leading motorists to immediately go in a different direction.

However, the meeting heard system would be subject to funding as would the authority’s long-term ambition to realign and elevate a section of the road.

Aiskew and Leeming councillor John Weighell said residents needed to know where the road would be closed when they set off from home, but the issue could be resolved with a bypass if sufficient government funding could be obtained.

Senior council figures are optimistic about the mayoral combined authority getting funding for a major road scheme following the York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership being handed government money for a similar road scheme between Malton and Pickering about 15 years ago as the route blockages were identified as “an economic barrier”.


  1. The road was closed 6 times and more this last “winter” period-late 2023 into 2024. The flooding problem has been happening for years, every year and now the Highways Dept is looking to address it. I’m glad they are not in charge of any Emergency Services!!

  2. Typical cheap short-term fix by hdc,just to put up more signs isn’t solving the issue esp to divert more traffic through villages who’s rural roads aren’t suitable for two-way traffic with the aftermath being a mud bath with verges chewed up which is never cleaned up after by hdc,surely they should be looking at obtaining funding to stop the water crossing the road in the 1st place by either building some more banking or raising the height of the road through the dip where water goes across, unfortunately engineers made a mistake years ago by letting the then,widened road run into a dip

  3. Why waste more money on new fancy signs which is only going round the problem and won’t sort it.

    Just put this money in to sorting this flood problem out once and for all by building the road on an embankment above the water flooding level with some underpasses to allow the flood water to pass under as they did on the approach road leading on to the very old bridge over the river on the road from Leyburn to Middleham which has underpasses on the embankment which allows the flood water to pass under when river floods and is one of only two bridges in Wensleydale on this river all the way from Hawes to Masham which doesn’t ever close because of flooding when all the others aren’t passable in flood conditions.

    When we look back in history and see how many many years ago with none of the modern machinery we have today they built the railway on many embankments all the way from Northallerton to Hawes and now we can’t make a small embankment of less than 1/4 a mile with the use of all the modern machinery to sort this main road it seems to be a very very sad day.

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