District council to complain to government after Storm Arwen difficulties

Photo; Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team.

Richmondshire District Council is to write to the government to complain about its lack of investment in the area, amid claims Storm Arwen exposed a critical shortage of essential infrastructure.

The authority voted to press the government to take decisive action to avert further hardship for the hundreds of Yorkshire Dales residents who lost electricity for several days – and some for well over a week – as temperatures plunged to -6C at the end of November.

The move came hours after North Yorkshire County Council said power had been restored to all but six properties in the area, more than a week after the storm hit.

Residents of Gunnerside and Low Row in Swaledale were among those hardest hit.

Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team was drafted in to help Yorkshire Ambulance Service after a 98-year-old Gunnerside resident became seriously ill.

Around 50 homes and businesses in the Hawes area were also left without power for days.

The authority’s leader, Councillor Angie Dale, said Richmondshire District Council had rapidly reacted to an “absolutely horrendous” situation following the wintry weather, ensuring all properties had heaters.

Councillors congratulated the communities, council emergency response teams and electricity workers for pulling together, but said action was needed as the amount of infrastructure in the area was unacceptable in the 21st century.

Councillor Dale said: “More investment needs to be made in this area.”

Upper Dales councillor Yvonne Peacock said: “In the aftermath of this all the parish councils should be asked to feed in the problems that they feel they have, because there’s got to be a post-mortem to find out if we can make it better another time.

“What we have found is that electricity is down none of these things work.”

The meeting heard how community leaders had alerted county and district council emergency response teams to the plight of some partiularly vulnerable residents.

However, due to the lack of infrastructure, such as mobile coverage and broadband signals, they struggled to make contact. Councillors were told antiquated and inter-dependent electricity and water systems in some places had left residents vulnerable.

Hawes, High Abbotside and Upper Swaledale councillor Jill McMullon said: “There were communities that did suffer. In Swaledale an extra added difficulty was that communities who have stuck together and done their best couldn’t reach some of the properties because of the snow.”

Arkengarthdale and Swaledale member Councillor Richard Good added: “The problem was we were passing on phone numbers and email addresses and they weren’t a lot of use.”