THE centre of Malton was thrown into chaos last night as County Bridge was closed due to safety fears.

Officials took the decision to close one of the main routes between Norton and Malton after flood waters reached the top of the inner arches.

Insp Andy Everitt, of Malton Police, said retained officers and off-duty police had been called in to deal with the diversions put in place after Town Street in Old Malton and Church Street in Norton were also closed.

“The police, fire service and Highways Agency have taken the decision on the grounds of safety,” he said.

“This is an ongoing situation and changing by the minute.”

Area highways manager Richard Marr said due to the age of the bridge, it was not designed to withstand the pressure of water.

“At the moment we are keeping Railway Bridge open as the water level is about one metre below it and County Bridge is stopping some of the flow but we will continue to monitor the situation,” he said.

“It has been particularly bad in Old Malton as well – I have never seen water that deep there before.”

The situation in Malton, Norton, and Old Malton worsened throughout the day with many properties affected by sewerage water as the drains failed to cope with the onslaught of water.

Fire crews were called from neighbouring fire services including Humberside to help pump water out of properties in Old Malton using a high volume pump.

Hazel Simmons, landlady of the Wentworth Arms in Town Street, said they had used sandbags to try to keep the water out.

“The water is coming through the drains and has nowhere to go, the flood defences appear to be doing their job but the drains can’t cope with the level of water,” she said.

“We have only been in the pub since September and have decorated the whole property. The new roof is holding the water out but it’s trying to get in through the door.

“It is a nightmare – this is our livelihood but we are younger and can deal with it. I feel sorry for the older people it affects.”

In Norton, raw sewerage was seeping into the back gardens of properties in St Nicholas Street through the drains.

Coun Di Keal, Norton mayor, said she had phoned at 8.15am to notify Yorkshire Water.

“I was told that because it wasn’t in my house there was nothing they could do about it,” she said.

“This is disgusting, filthy water affecting the houses along Derwent Terrace as well where young children live. It really needs addressing.”

Firecrews from Malton, Pickering, Scarborough and York were called out to help deal with it.

Station manager Richard Hanley, working in Church Street, said they were pumping water out to protect nearby properties and get the road open again as soon as possible.

As the Gazette & Herald went to press, a spokesman for the Environment Agency said the water levels were expected to peak before midnight.

“Homes in Old Malton have been affected by flooding from surface water, but the River Derwent is so high that it is not letting this water drain away naturally,” he added.

“We have taken the decision to issue a flood warning for this area as a precaution, as there is still a risk to a number of properties.

“We are continuing to work with emergency services to pump water away as quickly as we can.

“Flood water levels have now gone down by approximately a foot and the water is gradually clearing away.

“As far as we are aware, three homes have been flooded and a further 10 could experience access problems.”


Floods lead to new push for defences

PICKERING was taken to the brink this week as torrential downpours threatened homes and businesses.

Although the town managed to avoid any serious damage, residents were forced to take urgent action to protect their properties.

Peter and Mary Croot, who live near Beck Isle Museum, in Bridge Street, said they had been alerted on Monday and had started moving items out of harm’s way.

“We were just been hoping the water peaked before it reached our door. The problem with the flood defence work is that it is all so long-winded when we need something doing now,” Peter said.

Kathleen Grayston, who lives nearby, said she was ‘absolutely exhausted’.

“My daughter has been helping me move things since the early hours, it is so worrying,” she said.

“Last time we were flooded I lost everything. It is terrible and I don’t think people understand unless they have been affected themselves.”

Rodge Dowson, manager of Beck Isle Museum, said volunteers had been working until 11pm on Monday to clear items from outbuildings and the ground floor.

“We have had fantastic support from neighbours and partners who have all volunteered to help,” he said.

Jack Smith, whose father Phil is landlord of the Rose Inn in Bridge Street, said water had started coming in to the cellars and kitchen.

“We have been here three years and have never experienced anything like this before,” he said.

Mike Potter, of Pickering Civic Society, said it was a timely reminder that crossing fingers, toes and anything else will just not hold back flood water.

He said: “I’ve been campaigning for five years now and other than the minor defences installed by the Slowing The Flow partnership, we still have nothing on the ground for bunds that would protect the town from up to one-in-25 year events.

“Although the Environment Agency must shoulder some of the blame, it goes much higher when the Reservoir Act massively increases the costs and bureaucracy by insisting on costly over-engineering to withstand a one-in-10,000 year event.”

Mike said there were also question marks over Natural England resisting any works in the SSSI, rather than working with a can-do attitude.

“As our rural area doesn’t quality for funding from central government, we must rely on our own council tax from Ryedale District Council and North Yorkshire County Council. Let’s hope the recent threat from Ryedale that funding could be lost doesn’t become reality. The 2007 flood cost the town, councils and emergency services several million pounds, so the costs could be recouped quite quickly,” he added.

Last week the county council executive gave the green light to put £300,000 towards the flood defence scheme.

Members were told in an officers’ report that the money would be used as part of the Slow the Flow project which is expected to cost £1.9 million.

The Regional Flood Defence Group is due to make a decision on funding in the next few weeks.