CALLS for £500,000 to be found to enable a £2.5 million flood defence scheme for Pickering to go ahead have been made following a public exhibition.

Officials of the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and North York Moors National Park staged an exhibition at Pickering Memorial Hall where they explained details of the project which involves building earth mounds – known as bunds – north of the town.

Mike Potter, chairman of the Ryedale Flood Research Group, said: “While money has been allocated to the scheme by Ryedale District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Natural England and Defra, there is still a funding gap of about £500,000 to be found.

“However, we are hopeful the various authorities and agencies will find it because the scheme is vital for Pickering. We can’t let the scheme fail for £500,000 when so many households and businesses have suffered so much.”

Mr Potter believed that compromises could be found to keep the scheme within budget.

“Our concern is that if the scheme doesn’t happen now it may not happen at all,” he said.

Dr Nick Odoni, a member of the flood defence group and a lecturer at Bristol University, said the wood debris dams had already proved effective in Sinnington and were reducing the flood risk in Pickering.

“There is a determination by all the parties concerned to make this scheme a success,” he said.

Howard Keal, a leading campaigner for the Pickering scheme, said: “There is an absolute urgency for it to go ahead. We are determined to see it go through because people have suffered for so long.

“There is an unstoppable momentum to provide these defences in Pickering – they are massively overdue. We have come too far now to falter.”

Simon Marrington, of the Forestry Commission, said 170 dams had been built at Cropton, north of Pickering, to hold back the flow of surface water coming down from the moors into the town centre and extensive tree planting carried out on the Levisham estate.

Water guages were being used to assess the success of the dams but so far the signs were very encouraging, said Mr Marrington.

The building of wood debris dams above the town was an innovative approach.

“The Forestry Commission is building the dam structures above the flood area. Everyone is working really hard to make the scheme a success,” he said.