Exclusive: North Yorkshire council bosses' plea to Environment Secretary over emergency funding for flood-hit Dales farmers

Recovery efforts have been ongoing since the unprecedented flooding last month. Pic: SWNS
Recovery efforts have been ongoing since the unprecedented flooding last month. Pic: SWNS

Farmers in the Yorkshire Dales whose businesses were devastated by this summer’s flash floods need emergency funding to help them recover, the Government was told by council bosses last night.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les and chief executive Richard Flinton have written to the new Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers calling for Dales farmers to be able to access the Farming Recovery Fund.

The scene in the Yorkshire Dales after severe flooding destroyed a bridge. Picture: SWNS

The scene in the Yorkshire Dales after severe flooding destroyed a bridge. Picture: SWNS

Read more: True scale of floods devastation laid bare in the Yorkshire Dales

Read more: Quick action to repair flood-hit bridges in Yorkshire Dales is commendable - The Yorkshire Post says

The Government fund was made available for flood-hit farmers in Cumbria in 2015 but is currently closed. North Yorkshire leaders also want its rules to be changed to help pay for repairs to damaged drystone walls and historic small farm buildings.

The areas of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale were particularly badly hit last month by the “unprecedented” flash floods which destroyed two bridges and badly damaged local roads after up to 113mm of rain fell in just three hours.

Describing the devastating impact on farmers, the letter seen by The Yorkshire Post describes the “significant hit to the infrastructure of their farms, including outbuildings”.

Also lost were drystone walls, important silage and fodder for animals over the winter months and livestock such as sheep killed by the fast-flowing water carrying debris and large rocks. The Environment Agency said the intensity of rain on July 30 was a UK record.

Coun Les said: “Farming is a crucial business for us here in North Yorkshire and is one of the mainstays of our local economy.

“It’s a tough business in these upland areas and many farms are barely viable, yet at the same time they are absolutely vital to the communities, the landscape and the tourism industry that the whole of the Dales relies upon.

“We appeal to Government to release funds urgently to help them recover.” Mr Flinton said: “These truly devastating floods may be a very rare weather event but where they have hit they have destroyed everything in their path.”

He added: “We have emphasised that the restoration and reinstatement of this farming infrastructure is a critical feature of the wider local economy, as well as the farms themselves.

“This part of the world is about to be showcased by the UCI World Cycling Championships in September and it is important that the world sees the outstanding beauty of the Dales and that it is a resilient and recovering area that tourists can come to visit and enjoy.”

Farming and community leaders issued a united plea for Whitehall support earlier this month, while Richmond MP Rishi Sunak said he was “pushing very hard” for clarity on what funding can be made available.

The North Yorkshire letter says the Farming Recovery Fund has “done important work in other areas affected by flooding and we believe should be immediately applied to the areas affected by these most recent events”.

And Coun Les said he hoped the support from Mr Sunak, who was recently appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, “gives this cause extra voice”.

Business leaders have said the Dales landscape of dry stone walls – created by generations of farmers over the centuries – is a unique and distinctive backdrop that attracted millions of tourists – and must not be lost.

Measures are also being sought so affected farmers are not penalised for being unable to meet their environmental stewardship obligations.

This week a temporary bridge was transported to Cogden Beck, on the B6270 which links the upper dale to Richmond, after the crossing was damaged by flooding.

Work has also started at Cogden South Bridge on the C106 at Grinton Moor, which was swept away by torrential water. It is on the route for the UCI Road World Championships.

A steel pipe will be lowered into the beck upstream from the ruins of the bridge, which will form the basis of a road diversion parallel to the damaged bridge. The short diversion around the broken crossing will reconnect the C106 until the stone structure is repaired.