PLANS for flood barrier upgrades at Clifton Ings have been given the green light.

But environment campaigners have raised concerns about the project.

A City of York Council planning committee approved the plans by a majority vote at a meeting on Thursday.

Councillors were told that the government has asked to be informed about the decision and that it may be ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.

The Environment Agency will raise and extend the flood barriers, as well as installing a permanent pumping station between the River Ouse and Blue Beck.

The scheme aims to protect 134 homes.

But Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and lies in the Green Belt.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Mick Phythian, from Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows and York Natural Environment Trust, raised concerns about the impact on wildlife.

And he said he fears the mitigation measures are not good enough, saying: “Almost three decades of work have gone into transforming the once poached pasture covered in creeping thistle into an SSSI. In that time we have received minimal support and maximum obstruction from the Environment Agency.

“We’re also aware of the effects of flooding - a number of our volunteers have been flooded.

“Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows coordinated those 26,000 hours of work that people gave voluntarily that made the site what it is.

“We do not wish to be involved in any mitigation where we consider the proposals inadequate, inappropriate or underfunded.”

Councillors praised the group for its work to maintain the site.

Richard Lever, project manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We are very pleased that City of York Council planning committee has approved the Clifton Ings Barrier Bank flood defence work.

“It is great news for the local community and the city as a whole. It will help better protect 134 homes from flooding, as well as local businesses and central York. It will also help keep York open for business in times of flooding by better protecting the main A19 arterial road.

“We really appreciate that Clifton Ings is a much loved and used community asset. We recognise that it is important habitat for flora and fauna. We are committed to mitigating for any impacts our work causes, which has been agreed with Natural England.

“We look forward to working with local environmental groups, City of York Council and Natural England to make sure this project has a successful outcome for the SSSI and environment.”

Work on the £13 million scheme will start next spring and should be completed by the end of 2021.

The Environment Agency says it will keep access open to as much of Clifton Ings as possible while the work takes place and a pedestrian and cycle route between Clifton Park&Ride and Water End bridge will be maintained throughout the work.

Work will not be carried out in areas thought to be habitat of the tansy beetle.

For more information visit the agency’s hub on North Street from 10am to 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.