FLOOD stricken Ryedale residents could face not one, but two more flooding seasons before proper defences are completed, the Evening Press can reveal.

Environment Agency bosses have admitted that a £4.1 million scheme to protect Malton and Norton may not be finished before the early part of 2003.

That means some homeowners could be at risk of flooding this winter and the following one as well.

Residents who were expecting the defences to be completed by autumn next year said the news had come as a severe blow.

St Nicholas Street resident Di Keal said the prospect of facing two flooding seasons rather than one would be too much to bear.

"I thought, as do many residents, that the Environment Agency had said the work would be completed by autumn next year," she said. "But now it seems we are facing the prospect of having to face a potential two floods before we are properly protected."

Howard Darley, owner of Robson's Garage, in Welham Road, Norton, said he has been preparing for the work to take longer than 12 months anyway.

"I will believe it when I see it. I am as sick as a parrot of being flooded, but I'm so used to it now, another flooding season won''t make much difference," he said.

Tony Andryszewski, from the Environment Agency, said the project was likely to start this November, and it was possible it could take until the early part of 2003 to complete.

"We were never specific about how long it would take - there are certain things we have to take into account," he said. "The work is likely to be completed by early 2003."

He said it was likely defences would be put in place on one side of the river first - some homes would be protected while others would not.

"We will be able to offer protection to some homes, but not all of them," he said.

An Agency colleague said the work could take anything between 12 and 16 months to complete.

That means that in the worst case scenario, the work will not be completed until March 2003.


Updated: 09:56 Wednesday, October 10, 2001