NEW pleas to Environment Minister John Healey to give the go-ahead for the £6.7 million flood defence scheme for Pickering have been made amid warnings that the town will suffer another devastation unless it is given priority.

An angry Ryedale District councillor, Howard Keal, who is spokesman for the Pickering Flood Defence Group, said he was still awaiting a reply to his letter to Mr Healey from last September when he urged him to step in.

Coun Keal said 3,000 people had signed the Gazette & Herald's petition action ahead after Pickering suffered its sixth flood in eight years last June when 75 homes and businesses were extensively damaged.

Hesaid he wants to present the petition to Mr Healey - a former pupil of Lady Lumley's School and Labour candidate for the Ryedale Division in the 1990s - who is expected to make a fact-finding visit to Pickering in the next few weeks.

"These floods were prsedicted, they were wholly preventable. But they will happen again unless the fast-track to defend Pickering is restored by the Government and the scheme put in place, " he wrote to Mr Healey.

"I am at a loss to understand the indifference to the suffering this Government's shrug of the shoulders continues to cause.

We will go on requesting a meeting with you until it is granted."

Coun Keal said efforts had been made to find partnership funding to help pay for the scheme and Ryedale District Council had earmarked £1 million towards it, while the Yorkshire Regional Flood Defence Committee had added £50,000 to pump prime the project.

"Pickering Flood Defence Group has been campaigning for a flood alleviation scheme since the floods began. The Environment Agency drew up defences for the town when seven schemes in the region were fast-tracked by Defra."

Pickering was the only community of the seven to be left out due to delays in delivering a scheme, said Coun Keal.

"The flooding this summer was the worst so far and hit many properties which have not suffered flood damage before. They happened because viable defences designed five years ago at a cost of £750,000 are still to be built, " he has told the minister.

Pleading with Mr Healey to add his support to the group's campaign, Coun Keal said: "Please exert whatever influence you can to promote the desperately needed flood defences for Pickering.

Coun Keal said a delegation from the Flood Defence Group was prepared to meet Mr Healey at the House of Commons.