PLANTING more trees, storing flood water in fields, creating buffer strips to delay flooding peaks, and improving land drains are put forward in a major new report by the Environment Agency to deal with flood management over the next 50 to 100 years.
The high-profile report, Managing Flood Risk, covers the whole of Ryedale and a large part of North Yorkshire, focusing on the Yorkshire Derwent area covering 2,048 kilometres and a population of 100,000.
The 32-page document, which is going out for widespread consultation to local authorities, a catalogue of organisations as well as the public, has been produced in response to the increasing number of devastating floods in Ryedale in recent years.
It warns: "Considerable physical changes may occur in the Derwent catchment area over the next 50 to 100 years."
The report adds that urban development, changes in land use and climate change have been taken on board.
Land management is likely to have the biggest impact on flood risk in Ryedale, and the Environment Agency says that to manage flood risk in the Ryedale area it wants to see:
* Better information of rainfalls, river flows and more monitoring equipment* Local authorities to stop allowing building in floodplains* More environmental schemes* Improved flood warnings so households at risk from flooding can take action* A change in land management practice to reduce floodingThe report says possible work could include modifying land drains to slow the flow of water to watercourses, encouraging landowners to plant more trees, improved channel flows and areas where flood water could be stored. In the past it has been suggested that where fields are deliberately flooded to protect towns and villages, farmers would be compensated.
In its report, the Environment Angecy says that by the 2050s there could be a climate change impact on the Derwent catchment area through wetter winters and drier summers - a drop in summer rainfall of between 13 and 32 per cent but a rise in rain during the winter months of between eight and 20 per cent.
One stark warning says: "Summer storms with high intensity rainfall may become more frequent and intense", and the report adds: "Increased winter rainfall and more intense summer storms may have the effect of increasing frequency of flooding, therefore increasing the need to plan for the effects of this across the catchment area."
The agency says it aims to manage flood risk in Ryedale by considering its effect on people, the environment - both wildlife and heritage - and on the local economy. Its objectives are to reduce flooding risks to all three as well as adapt to the effects of climate change.
Assessments are to be made on flood risks at Helmsley, which was hit by floods in June 2005, to reduce the flood risk at Pickering, and at Malton and Norton.
Eric Bowles, clerk to the three drainage boards in the Ryedale area - the Muston and Yedingham, the Rye and the Thornton-le-Dale boards - said the report was being studied by the boards' engineers and would go before the trustees later this month after which responses would be made to the Environment Agency.
Coun Howard Keal, spokesman for the Pickering Flood Defence Group and one of the key people behind the multi-million flood defence schemes carried out in Malton and Norton, said: "I have still have to see the full detailed study, but it is already clear that what it is trying to achieve makes absolute sense.
We do need to take a hard look at the way we manage land, as part of dealing the increasingly extreme weather coming our way. Measures in the plan include planting forests and extending wetlands to help reduce the impact of massive downpours.
Slowing the rate of run-off of rivers will smooth out devastating peaks in rainfalls that are part of the flood picture.
"At the same time, it has to be made clear that this is only a part of the solution to keep up with worsening climate change. The measures identified by the agency have to go hand-in-hand with the building of defences - it's not an either or - we need both.
"The report must not be allowed to be a smokescreen for the abysmal failure of the Government and the agency to defend Pickering and other communities across North Yorkshire."
Ryedale MP John Greenway said: "There is a fundamental difference of opinion between farmers and landowners and the Environment Agency on what needs to be done to alleviate future flooding in Ryedale. The Environment Agency believes there will be substantial benefit to wildlife but local people are not so convinced."
Mr Greenway said it was vital that there was a "thorough consultation" on the agency's proposals.
"I have asked the agency to have a meeting with the internal drainage boards because these proposals need to be discussed in detail."