AMBITIOUS plans to protect Pickering from all but the worst of floods have been given a £950,000 boost by Ryedale District Council.
Councillors agreed to splash the cash on the Slowing the Flow Project’s key scheme which would see a reservoir built to protect homes and businesses in the town at its full meeting on Thursday.
But the scheme, expected to cost around £2 million, still faces a shortfall of £500,000 and must earn planning permission before work can begin.
Once the flood storage proposals are put in place, the Environment Agency says it will protect Pickering up to a one-in-25 year standard – meaning it would not withstand an extreme flood as last seen in 2007.
Support for the scheme at the meeting was overwhelming but there were widespread calls for the agency to better maintain the district’s rivers, mainly through dredging, and “minimise the effect” of any future flooding.
Cllr Geoff Acomb, chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee which recommended the money is put towards the scheme, told the council: “A lot has been said, a lot of work has been done and a lot of science put into it.
“The evidence we have got at the moment leads us to believe that this scheme will give us some relief. But the expectation of people in Pickering in particular needs to be realistic. This is not a ‘silver bullet’ – it is a step in the right direction. Whether or not dredging is necessary, we have to wait and see. We have to keep working with the Environment Agency.”
Alongside the £950,000 pledged by Ryedale District Council last week, the Slowing the Flow Project has been given £300,000 by North Yorkshire County Council with the agency itself chipping in £50,000 and a Local Levy another £150,000.
It is also hoped the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee will agree to provide a further £300,000 later this month.
Talks are ongoing with both the Government and the Environment Agency in the hope of bridging the funding gap.
Jeremy Walker, chairman of The Slowing the Flow Partnership Board, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the funding will be found.
A planning application is due to be submitted in the next month and, if permission is secured and the funding shortfall bridged, work on the defence scheme could start in the late spring.
But he said: “There are still question marks, we are not there yet and schemes such as this always take along time to put together.
“However, we have made substantial progress during the last 18 months with a new design, a commitment from partners and putting in place the funding. We now need to turn this progress into a definitive scheme.”
Mike Potter, of Ryedale Flood Research Group, said: “The £950,000 now means about £1.5m in total is confirmed – leaving around £500,000 to £800,000 which has got to be realistic to raise.
“The £1.5m is a real lever for that. “If the Ryedale District Council money had been refused, it would have been nigh on impossible to raise the rest.
“Now it means it would be political suicide to let the scheme fail as virtually all the money is coming directly from local sources.
“It doesn’t seem unreasonable to put big pressure on Central Government to cough up a contribution for what is supposed to be a ‘demonstration project’ or prototype.”