GENERATIONS of under-investment and neglect have left York at greater threat from floods, city leaders have been told.

The impact of large developments on York’s drainage network has often been ignored and funding cuts to gully-cleaning have heightened the risk, a new study has revealed.

The authority’s drains are unable to cope with even minor floods and it will cost £5 million to bring them up to standard, City of York Council’s cabinet was told last night.

Officials have warned councillors that unless action is taken, “unpredictable and unbudgeted costs” will continue and the council could face compensation claims.

The Surface Water Management Plan discussed at the cabinet meeting said:

• There are no records of where much of York’s flood infrastructure is based, meaning its condition is unknown.

• Most landowners do not recognise the system’s importance or their maintenance duties

• Lack of funding for gully-cleaning means most work is “reactive” and not carried out in areas that suffer flooding

• Maintenance of other flood infrastructure is “poor or non-existent”

• Repairs to drains and attempts to solve flooding problems have “often been badly-executed and ill-thought-out”, having no effect or making the situation worse

• Pipes, culverts and ditches are regularly blocked with silt and roots and often damaged by utility companies

• Changes to roads, such as widening schemes and the creation of cycle routes, do not take into account the effect on drains.

The study found “numerous locations where development has aggravated flood risk” and said more roads, shopping centres, car parks, bus and cycle lanes and larger houses had reduced the areas where surface water can go.

The cabinet agreed several recommendations last night, including a commitment to fund investigations into unrecorded drains and to carry out repairs where necessary, scheduling maintenance schemes in advance rather than on a reactive basis, and asking utility firms to remove equipment which has damaged the system.

Michael Tavener, the council’s flood risk manager, said in a written report that implementing the plan would not prevent flooding but would ensure existing infrastructure was as effective as possible. He said the alternative was “continuing dilapidation”.

Council leader James Alexander said York already had “robust response procedures” for river flooding and said: “We’ve taken a significant step forward in getting a plan of action in place to channel much-needed investment into drainage systems to support the management of surface water flood risks across the city.”

Fulford councillor Keith Aspden, a leading critic of the 700-home Germany Beck scheme – earmarked for a flood plain – said the plan was “a stark warning that existing drainage infrastructure in York is essentially ineffective against flood risk”.

He said: “It outlines the damaging impact new housing development and road changes can have, and any new development – including Germany Beck – needs to take account of this.”

Andrew Bowes, managing director of Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, one of the firms behind Germany Beck, said flood prevention plans for the scheme reflected the council’s report.

He said: “Once implemented, the on-site flood works will manage all run-off within the site from both the development and the area of the A19 at the site access.”

Mr Tavener said the Germany Beck plans approved in 2007 include flooding and drainage measures and full details would be submitted to the council when work on the site is due to start.