FRUSTRATED residents and business owners are pleading with the authorities to dredge the River Ouse in York to help ease city centre flooding.
Householder Chris Cook has sent a petition of 40 signatures to the Environment Agency, City of York Council, and MP Hugh Bayley, asking for measures to stop the waters threatening their properties every time wet weather hits.
Mr Cook, who has lived in Tower Place and South Esplanade for many years, said he and his neighbours felt for those affected by the severe flooding in the south west of England.
The petition has been backed by Shaun Binns, landlord of The Lowther pub in King’s Staith, which is once again temporarily closed because of the rising river levels in York.
As reported in The Press yesterday, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, issued an unreserved apology to those affected in the Somerset Levels.
Mr Pickles admitted the Government has made a “mistake” in not dredging rivers to prevent flooding but blamed the Environment Agency for providing poor advice.
Like those rivers in the south west, the Ouse has not been dredged for many years and Mr Cook said he and his neighbours had seen a marked increase in flooding.
He said: “We were all badly affected by the floods in 2000 and 2012 – some of us had more than a metre of water in our properties.
“I don’t think any buildings have been flooded this year, but every time it rains the water comes up over the footpaths and the Tower Gardens.”
The flooded paths mean access is cut off and many businesses are losing out heavily every time the river rises, he said.
Mr Cook said: “We feel this area of York is not receiving the attention it deserves.
“We are frustrated that City of York Council raises money by borrowing to reinvigorate King’s Square and Exhibition Square to beautify them for the tourists, but can’t do anything for residents here.”
He wants the Environment Agency to urgently review its policies about dredging, and would like to see temporary flood barriers used to protect the area.
The Environment Agency responded to the calls by saying its efforts were currently focused on areas where severe flood warnings were in place and there was a danger to life.
Coun Dave Merrett said City of York Council would like to see more Government funds going to the Environment Agency.
He said: “York has had its fair share of flooding in recent years and is well-equipped to deal with incidents like this.
"We are committed to working with all partners in helping to prevent flooding in York and while we would welcome the introduction of improved flood defences near King’s Staith, this would be a joint partnership approach with the Environment Agency.
"However, at this current time the Environment Agency are right to prioritise all their resources to protect people and property suffering from extreme periods of weather and threat to life.”