Council agrees cash for uplands environmental scheme after hearing it could reduce flooding

Damage to round bales in Swaledale. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Council leaders have declared a move to pump taxpayers’ money into an uplands environmental scheme a “no-brainer” after hearing it could prevent a repeat of devastating flooding.

Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board heard putting £50,000 towards a multi-million pound project which could change the face of some of the North’s most beautiful and environmentally-important areas was “the bargain of the week”.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership had asked for the funding to help plug a financial shortfall in their Tees-Swale naturally project, to help unlock more than £5m of lottery funding.

The council meeting heard the large-scale habitat restoration initiative would create the foundations of a robust and resilient ecological network across Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Teesdale, and represented an opportunity to prevent a repeat of the flash flooding which hit the area in July.

Numerous homes were inundated, 11 bridges destroyed and 3.5km of footpaths and bridleways swept away when 113mm of rain fell in less than three hours.

Officers told the meeting the £50,000 contribution over five years would be good value for money in supporting such issues as environmental improvement and job creation, but would also support the authority’s drive to tackle climate change.

The authority’s leader, Councillor Angie Dale said: “This fits in to what we should be doing, especially with the recent floods in the Dales. I think it’s a no-brainer.”

The five-year initiative will see peatland and upland hay meadows restored, woodland enhanced, wetlands created and rivers and grasslands protected.

There will be training for farmers, contractors and volunteers, and improvements to accessibility to bring people into the countryside.

Lower Swaledale and Arkengarthdale member Richard Good said following the flooding national park staff had identified the lack of sphagnum moss on some of the moors as having contributed towards the flash flooding and the Tees-Swale project would include increasing such vegetation.

He said: “One of the problems with the flooding is that it came off the hills so fast and wasn’t being absorbed into the moor. It won’t be the only solution, but it will help.

“I think £10,000 a year is the bargain if the week because it is a fantastic opportunity for the national park part of this district.”

The council’s opposition leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock added: “There is no question that a lot of the farming practices that they have been doing they are having to change. Everyone is trying to find ways of preventing the floods and this will go some way towards helping this.”