A comprehensive study into the cause of flooding in Otley is to be launched with the support of a £50,000 university grant.
Residents in the town were hit hard when the River Wharfe burst its banks in November last year and then again on Boxing Day, with homes left devastated by several feet of filthy floodwater. Now, with the support of Oxford and Durham University experts, a project is to examine in depth the causes of the floods, looking at ways to stop it happening again.
“There are people who are only now moving back into their houses,” said Coun Ray Georgeson, chairman of Otley Town Council which secured the investment. “The distress and disruption has been horrible.
“They have never experienced this kind of dramatic flooding. But it seems to be happening more and more often, with increasing rage.
“The land has changed over the years. Now we are seeing sections where heavy downpours are not being absorbed but are bouncing down to rivers and streams and we are experiencing flash flooding we haven’t seen before. Hopefully we can create a good understanding of what needs to be done.”
The project, initiated by Green Party councillor Mick Bradley and to be launched September 21, will involve local, trained volunteers working with academic experts to create a model of flooding in Otley.
The resulting report and its recommendations will then be presented to Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency, which are working alongside this on their own investigations.
Dr Jason Knowles, deputy executive officer for Otley Town Council, said this is based on similar projects which have proved successful elsewhere.
“We are trying to understand what’s happening and why the town was flooded,” he said. “They are taking a model they’ve used elsewhere – in Pickering – and testing to see if it works in Otley. We are also doing some additional work to see what’s going on and if there are mitigating and alleviating measures to put in place.
“This will involve the local community, to see how it’s happening and what can be done to stop it happening again.”
The model in Pickering involved smallscale changes to the landscape, such as drainage works and ditch digging, but it had a real impact. The hope is that, with local knowledge, the study can garner information on what is happening around Otley to change water flow.
“It will very much involve the community in helping us to understand what the pinch points are – why the flows of water are doing what they have been doing,” added Coun Georgeson. “It will give us local information to really understand, in great detail, where the problems originate. We are thrilled to have been offered this chance. Although it will take a long time to do, it has to be done properly.”
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