A PETITION of more than 4,000 names collected as part of a Gazette & Herald campaign to win the go-ahead for the multi-million pound flood defence scheme for Pickering, is to be handed to the Government's floods minister, Phil Woollas on Monday.

A deputation headed by Gordon Clitheroe, chairman of the Pickering Flood Defence Group, and its chief spokesman, Coun Howard Keal is to meet the minister at Defra in Whitehall, when the petition of 4,222 signatures will be presented.

The meeting comes hot on the heels of new worries for Pickering residents and businesses which narrowly escaped yet another flood this week when heavy rain caused extensive flooding of hundreds of acres of fields and as the River Derwent and several small tributaries and becks overflowed.

Coun Keal said the six-strong deputation, which is expected to include some of the people worst hit in last June's floods, had been allocated a 20-minute slot to put their case to the minister for the work to be given priority by the Environment Agency.

"I am hoping we may be able to stretch it to half an hour, " Coun Keal said.

"We shall be putting our case forcefully because we have been trying to get this meeting for a long time.

"We said we would keep knocking on the Government's door until it was opened. Now we have that opportunity."

Last June 75 houses and businesses were extensively damaged by the floods in the Market Place and Park Street area in the latest of a chain of flooding incidents over the past eight years.

"People were really worried earlier this week that they could be hit again as water levels rose. The land is saturated around Pickering and has no capacity to absorb more rain."

Coun Keal added: "This week's heavy rain made us appreciate that Malton and Norton now have their flood defences or they would have been under serious threat.

"It is now our intention to ensure Pickering gets its defence scheme. Plans were drawn up at a cost of £750,000 five years ago. Had it been put in place at the time, Pickering would have been spared the misery of the floods last summer."

  • Becks in the villages of Settrington and Hovingham overflowed on Monday but the levels dropped overnight when the rain subsided.

However, access to the Riverside area on the banks of the Derwent at Norton was closed after the river rose several feet.