Flood investigation funding for Dales welcomed

Flooding in July 2019. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Community leaders in the Dales have welcomed an injection of funding to investigate ways of lessen the impact of torrential downpours.

As part of drive to improve communities’ resilience to climate change, North Yorkshire County Council will press ahead with the project in parts of Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and Wensleydale after landing £200,000 for various feasibility schemes from the region’s local enterprise partnership.

The authority’s executive member for access, Councillor Don Mackenzie, said: “Residents always get reassurance when they know the problem affecting their community is being made a priority. This certainly is a priority.”

The council, which has previously committed £45,000 to drainage studies in the area, said the project would follow the recommendations of its inquiry into the floods on July 30 last year, which found the amount of rain that fell was in excess of a one in 1,000-year event.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it received about 165 calls to flooding in the Leyburn and Reeth area following the storm and it was reported about 100 homes were inundated, some with more than a metre of water in them.

The inquiry concluded as the intensity of the storm was not predicted, with no warnings were issued, other than for Arkle Beck, it meant there was no time for a co-ordinated response, but if climate change predictions are accurate there would be more such summer storms.

Recommendations included working with the Environment Agency to help develop short term forecasting technologies and surface water risk warnings and working with parish councils to examine the condition of watercourse structures and model the consequences of blockages to develop a programme of improvement and maintenance.

Other recommendations included identifying the opportunities, costs and benefits of holding back water in attenuation areas, such as at Bellerby and Leyburn, during extreme rainfall, working with communities and landowners to implement natural measures of reducing flood risk from surface water run-off and assessing potential for property level resilience in areas where multiple properties are at risk.

News of the investigations has buoyed community leaders in the area after learning in February that they had experienced the wrong ‘type’ of flooding to qualify for relief grants the government has given to flood-hit villages on the opposite side of Yorkshire.

Arkengarthdale and Swaledale councillor Richard Good said the authority’s plans highlighted last summer’s crisis in the Yorkshire Dales must not been forgotten as the communities which had been left struggling to get back on their feet were now facing a further crisis with the coronavirus outbreak.

He said he hoped the project would develop a system for routine maintenance of becks as the Environment Agency’s responsibilities centred around main watercourses and the suddenness of the flooding had shown the area had to be continually ready.

Cllr Good said: “You could not put defences in to defend what happened to us last year, it was like turning on a tap. We need some sort of programme to maintain the becks. It does need cooperation and coordination. If a resident or a parish council does work in one area and it is left somewhere else then you can get a flood.

“The community responded magnificently, as it is doing in the current crisis, but there could be more preparations, with the district and county council, to be more ready than we were.”