Worries over capability of flood scheme

CONCERNS have been raised over whether the flood defences being constructed for Ripon will be adequate to protect homes.

John Clarke, 79, who has lived on Borrage Lane for more than 50 years and whose rear garden slopes down towards the River Skell, is concerned the Environment Agency has not done enough to address flooding on the river.

The retired engineer – whose home was flooded out in November 2000 when the river level reached 11ft 5in – wants the bed to be cleared of gravel and silt that has built up over decades.

“Fifty-odd years ago, the river was 4ft-deep. Now the river is all silted up and you can walk across it in your shoes,” he said.

The flood defence scheme has consisted of two phases: the construction of the dam and reservoir at Birkby Nab to control water entering the River Laver, which feeds into the Skell just before Ripon; and various works in the city which will be completed by November.

Mr Clarke said the Laver was to blame for the flood in 2000 but believes the flood of 2007 – when levels reached 11ft and nearly breached his self-built defences – was caused by water coming down the Skell from further upstream.

“Studley Lake flooded in 2007 and the whole area at Fountains Abbey was under water,” he said.

“All the water from the Skell had nothing to do with the Laver so if the Environment Agency is not going to do anything on the Skell and we get heavy rain again, the same thing could happen.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said a survey in 2000 had shown 70 per cent of water came from the Laver.

“When it floods in Ripon, the water levels in the Laver and Skell reach their peaks at the same time. The benefit of the dam on the Laver is that it holds water back, literally allowing room for the Skell waters to go through and avoiding flooding,” she added.

She also said dredging the Skell would damage spawning grounds for fish and would not be cost effective as it was an expensive procedure and it would be only a matter of months before new deposits built up.

Further concerns have been raised by former Mayor of Ripon, David Parnaby, who is worried the defences could lower water levels on Ripon Canal, which is fed by a culvert from the Skell.

He said: “I was at the initial meeting the Environment Agency had with Ripon City Council and we were assured sufficient water would flow down there to keep the canal filled but, as things are at present, apparently it is struggling.”

But the spokesman for the Environment Agency said the flood defences were designed to cope with high water levels and would otherwise leave the river and canal unaffected.

She said: “We are not doing anything to alter the flow of the river in normal circumstances so none of the changes will have any impact on the water the canal gets.”