Work on the centrepiece of Pickering’s flood defence scheme will begin this month.
The long-mooted flood storage reservoir on land north of Pickering has endured a rocky road to reach this point when earlier proposals were dropped because of escalating costs.
But flood experts with the Slowing the Flow project went back to the drawing board and managed to put together a cheaper scheme, later securing the funding needed to build and maintain it.
An official ceremony will now be held at Pickering next week to mark the start of the scheme.
Jeremy Walker, chairman of the Slowing the Flow partnership, said: “We are delighted that at last we have an affordable scheme and the funds available to build it. “Over the last year we have put together a bigger local funding package which together with some Government grant from DEFRA puts us in a much better financial position. At the same time the Environment Agency have worked very hard to design a robust scheme which fully meets the standards required by the Reservoirs Act and which can be built within our budget.”
“I am very grateful to many local people and organisations for their support, especially Ryedale District Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the Yorkshire Flood and Coastal Committee who have put up most of the money, and to Pickering Town Council who have agreed to help meet the on-going costs of future maintenance. “We have also worked very closely with the North York Moors Railway, whose positive and constructive approach has been a key factor in producing the new design.”
The new scheme is designed to hold back over 100,000 cubic metres of flood water in Newtondale at times of peak flow down Pickering Beck, slowly releasing the water downstream.
While it will not prevent all floods – such as the events of 2007 – it will greatly improve the standard of protection for Pickering from the current 25 per cent chance of flooding in any one year, to a 4 per cent chance or less.
The new flood storage scheme is designed to work in combination with the land management measures funded by DEFRA and the Slowing the Flow Partnership which have been put in place over the last few years, such as tree planting, woody debris dams, timber bunds, heather bales to block moorland run-off channels, and no burn zones on the moors.
The announcement has been welcomed by Dan Rogerson, Environment Minister, who said: “This scheme will significantly reduce the chance of flooding in the town and give much needed relief to local residents and businesses, helping to build a stronger economy. Our investment is part of a £2.3 billion national programme to tackle the risk of flooding and means that more money than ever is being spent to better protect communities like Pickering.”
The total cost of the scheme will be over £2 million, once maintenance costs for the next fifty years are factored in. After more expensive plans had to be dropped it was necessary to produce a new design and ensure every opportunity was taken to reduce costs while maintaining quality. A key feature of the new plan is to use excavated clay from other projects in North Yorkshire, which will save several hundred thousand pounds in materials costs.
Mr Walker added: “It has taken a long time and several false starts to get to this point. By undertaking the work over the coming months the agency aims to avoid disruption to the Railway an the town’s main tourist season. It is hoped to complete the project next April.”
Anne McIntosh, MP for Thisk and Malton and chairman of the Government’s Defra Select Committee, added: “The project is a pioneering flood prevention scheme which will bring immediate benefit to thos eliving in Pickering but also similar schemes could rolled out elsewhere in the country.”
”The start of the construction of the reservoir is excellent news for Pickering and take together with the other land management measures, should protect the town from all but the most extreme floods in future.”