DELAYS in starting a £5 million pound York flood defence project have been branded 'completely unacceptable' by a councillor.

Micklegate ward councillor Jonny Crawshaw has launched a petition calling on the Environment Agency and City of York Council to ensure there is no further slippage in the timetable for construction work on the new defences in the Clementhorpe area.

The Press revealed last month that the agency’s scheme to better protect almost 150 homes in the area from being inundated by floodwaters from the River Ouse had hit technical problems.

The agency said it was having to make some significant changes to the design, and work on the ground - which was originally due to start before the third anniversary of the Boxing Day floods of 2015 - was not now set to commence until late next spring.

Cllr Crawshaw said he had worked closely with residents, council officers and the agency to try to ensure people’s homes nearest the river were properly protected and, as recently as July, the agency was still suggesting everything was on course.

He claimed it had told him it had known since March that it would not meet the November deadline.

"I’m pretty appalled by the way residents are being treated, if I’m being honest," he said.

“It is no surprise that local residents are losing confidence in the council and the Environment Agency to deliver this scheme and protect their homes.

"It is now almost three years since the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015 and there seems to have been a lot of consulting and not much constructing.

"It would be unforgivable were there to be a repeat of those devastating floods this Christmas.”

Cllr Crawshaw claimed the delays were being put down to a combination of factors including a corporate merger involving a consultancy firm the agency employed, changes to the way the business case was put together and access requirements for construction vehicles at a nearby development.

Ben Hughes, project director for the agency’s York Flood Alleviation Scheme, said last month it had been assessing the site and buildings and now needed to review its plans and carry out further structural surveys, which had resulted in the 'slight delay.'

He said:“We are as disappointed as anyone that we are not on the ground before Christmas but public safety is critical in all the work that we do and we would not want to endanger anybody or buildings.”

He added that changes included building a demountable flood barrier about 10 metres further along the street called Clementhorpe from the river and building a new flood barrier along the front of a building in Terry Avenue, called Waterfront House.