A PIONEERING £2m scheme to combat flooding in Pickering has started this week.

More than two years after the first proposals had to be dropped because of escalating costs, construction work on the long-awaited flood storage reservoir got underway yesterday (Tuesday).

The new scheme, known as the Slowing the Flow, is designed to hold back more than 100,000 cubic metres of flood water in Newtondale at times of peak flow from Pickering Beck.

While it will not prevent all floods – such as those in 2007 – it will improve protection for Pickering from the current 25 per cent chance of flooding in any one year to a four per cent chance or less.

The new flood storage scheme is designed to work in combination with the land management measures, funded by Defra, which have been put in place over the past few years, including tree planting, woody debris dams, timber bunds, heather bales to block moorland run-off channels and no burn zones on the moors.

The total cost of the scheme will be more than £2m, once maintenance costs for the next 50 years are factored in.

A key feature of the new plan is to use excavated clay from other projects in North Yorkshire, which will save several hundred thousand pounds in materials costs.

Jeremy Walker, Slowing the Flow partnership chairman, said: “We are delighted that at last we have an affordable scheme and the funds available to build it.

“Over the last year we have put together a bigger local funding package, which, together with some Government funding from Defra, puts us in a much better financial position.

“At the same time the Environment Agency has worked very hard to design a robust scheme which fully meets the standards required by the Reservoirs Act and which can be built within our budget.

“I am very grateful to many local people and organisations for their support, especially Ryedale District Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the Yorkshire Flood and Coastal Committee who have put up most of the money, and to Pickering Town Council who have agreed to help meet the on-going costs of future maintenance.

“We have also worked very closely with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, whose positive and constructive approach has been a key factor in producing the new design.

“It has taken a long time and several false starts to get to this point. By undertaking the work over the coming months, the Environment Agency aims to avoid disruption to the railway and to the town’s main tourist season.

“It is hoped to complete the project in April 2015, depending always on the weather.”

Anne McIntosh, MP for Malton and Thirsk and chairman of the Defra Select Committee, said the project was a pioneering flood prevention scheme which would bring immediate benefit to those living in Pickering as well as similar schemes elsewhere in the country,” she said.

“The start of the construction of the reservoir as part of the Slowing the Flow project is excellent news for Pickering and taken together with the other land management measures should protect the town from all but the most extreme floods in future.”