WORK has started to remove York’s Foss Barrier - just as the River Ouse looks set for serious flooding later this week after amber and yellow warnings were issued for heavy rain.

A crane was being assembled yesterday to lift away the huge metal gate which helps prevent flooding to hundreds of properties alongside the River Foss.

The Environment Agency says it has installed specially designed large steel beams into the river channel to act as a temporary barrier between the Ouse and Foss, while works to replace the permanent gate take place.

“These temporary barriers will ensure the Foss Barrier station continues to provide the same level of flood protection for York that the old gate did when river levels are high,” said a spokeswoman.

“They will remain in place until the new gate is installed and operable.”

The barrier prevents floodwaters from the Ouse flowing up the River Foss and causing flooding. Huge pumps simultaneously pump water out of the Foss into the Ouse to prevent it backing up the Foss.

Work to remove the existing lifting gate and install a taller one will take about four days to complete. The work was initially planned for spring 2020, but was delayed.

The agency says the final work on the barrier will better protect local homes, businesses and infrastructure, completing a £38 million upgrade to the Foss Barrier and Pumping Station, which was launched after it was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of water coming down the Foss on Boxing Day 2015 and hundreds of properties were inundated.

Guildhall councillor Denise Craghill welcomed the replacement of the barrier, saying: “Combined with the new flood storage area on the River Foss north of Strensall which was approved back in November, we are finally seeing the action we need to reduce the impact of flooding in York.”

The warnings for heavy rain have been issued for the Ouse catchment area by the Met Office.

The amber warning runs from 6am today until midnight tomorrow for an area including Tadcaster, Skipton, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Wakefield.

Chief Meteorologist Neil Armstrong said there would be heavy rain for 36-48 hours, heaviest across western facing hills, in particular parts of the southern Pennines and northern Peak District where there could be up to 120mm, with 40-70mm of rain widely across the whole Amber area.

He said there was a yellow warning in place for the northern Pennines, which would be combined with snowmelt to present a real threat of flooding.