ENVIRONMENT bosses will lead the fightback against future flooding across York and North Yorkshire from a new high-tech nerve centre.

The York Area Incident Room has been created at Foss House, an office block alongside the River Foss, which itself was marooned when the river burst its banks in late 2015 and flooded hundreds of homes.

The Environment Agency says staff will be better prepared than ever before to coordinate the response when rivers such as the Foss, Ouse, Wharfe and Derwent are at risk of flooding.

They will receive a feed of live data on river levels and flows from monitoring stations across North and East Yorkshire, and they will be aided for the first time by footage streamed in from a drone.

Flood resilience officer Sam Parkhouse said the experts would be contracted to fly the drone over flooded neighbourhoods, which might otherwise be difficult to access.

“We have a lot more modern technology than we had in 2015,” he said. “There’s space for 25 to 30 members of staff, each with their own screen. We only had eight dedicated screens at Clifton Moor.

“Information and footage can be displayed on a huge screen which all staff can observe.”

He said the staff would make decisions on a wide range of issues, including whether to issue flood warnings, close sluices and penstocks, install demountable flood defences, bring in temporary pumps and lower the Foss Barrier to help prevent the river flooding.

They would also liaise with emergency services and local authorities to help them deal with the impact of flooding.

He said the room would use an ‘incident management portal,’ which was established after a review of the agency’s mapping capabilities in the wake of the 2015 floods had identified the need to improve how data was acquired, shared, and used.

“The portal provides access to a variety of information to improve situational awareness for incident room staff,” he said. “This can include images, data and live feed video from field staff and drones.

“Staff in the field can use an app to upload images and information about an incident area and the sophisticated technology can then be used to look at potential options to help resolve the situation.”

He said the room would deal with more than just floods but also tackle problems caused by drought - for example the recent deaths of fish in the River Foss in York, caused by low oxygen levels - and pollution incidents.

He said the opportunity to create a new incident room had come about after the agency had moved its entire regional base from Coverdale House at Clifton Moor to Foss House, where it shares accommodation used by Defra staff.