All authorities must pull together in the right directio - Land Drainage and Flooding progress update to 30th Devember 2009 - 30th December 2009


Now that Winter is upon us and the wet weather has arrived in earnest, many readers will be wondering what is being done to protect our homes and land from flooding.


As we all know, the Environment Agency has a policy of not dredging the rivers. We all know how misguided this policy is, but I have long argued that Ryedale is too small to force a change of national policy, and that the way forward locally is to look for loop holes in the policy which can be used to improve flood prevention. I argued that we needed an independent expert hydrologist to advise the drainage boards and the Council in this respect. I proposed this at a meeting of Policy and Resources Committee in July 2004. The proposal was rejected, but the outcome was to set up a land drainage liaison working party, which includes representatives of the Council, the Environment Agency, the Drainage Boards and the County Council.


About four years after I first suggested it, the Council funded the Drainage Boards to obtain the report of an expert hydrologist. Chris Bowles was appointed and produced his Vale of Pickering “Channel Management Assessment and Planning Report – Phase 1” in October 2008. In preparing the report, Chris had worked with the Environment Agency. So the result is a document which the Agency has accepted. It analyses the causes for flooding and makes a number of recommendations, including details of further work to assess and identify what work could be carried out where without breaching the Agency’s policies. It is understood that the Council, the Agency and the Drainage Boards have all agreed to contribute to the cost of this further study.


At the same time, the lowland parishes set up “the Lower Vale of Pickering Parish Liaison Group”, under the chairmanship of Peter Milner.


One positive outcome of all of this is that the Agency seems to have done more work on Vale of Pickering rivers in the last twelve months than they have done in the last twelve years.


In the meantime, concern had been focussed on Pickering. Some years ago, the Environment Agency had prepared a scheme for preventing flooding of the town. The cost was seven million pounds. The scheme was withdrawn at the last minute, because the Agency did not think that the number of properties which would benefit could justify the expense. This was not accepted by the Council. For several years the Council tried to insist on this scheme, the whole scheme and nothing but the scheme. I supported this publicly, as I did not want to rock the boat. Behind the scenes, I was looking for a compromise solution.


The opportunity arrived when a group of academics from Oxford, Durham and other universities decided to do a case study on Pickering.  They asked for comments from councillors, the Pickering Civic Society, the Lower Vale of Pickering Parish Liaison Group and others. Some of us asked the academics to consider the building of a low bank across the valley, with a constricted gap for the Pickering Beck, so that the water could back up behind this when the flow of the beck exceeds the capacity of the constriction. This might hold back flood water from the town.  The academics produced a report entitled: “Making Space for People”, also in October 2008, which approves and developes this idea and other measures. All the relevant public bodies have accepted this report, and it is believed that the Agency is even promoting the “Pickering scheme” nationally for other areas! It is understood that a project manager has already been appointed, and work will start soon.


Unfortunately, none of this will help us this winter.  We can only hope that we can get away without serious flooding in Ryedale. In the meantime we can be reassured that all the public agencies are now at last working together and moving in the right direction.


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