An improved system of flood defences is a priority for Tadcaster, says a report of an investigation into the December 2015 flooding in the town.

The flooding, which was caused by heavy rain following Storm Eva, affected 79 homes and businesses and resulted in the collapse of Tadcaster Bridge over the River Wharfe, closing the A659 and separating the two sides of the town. After one of the wettest Novembers in more than a hundred years and a December that saw twice the average rainfall, the Wharfe catchment was saturated before the rain fell on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A temporary footbridge was installed by the County Council highways team within weeks of the bridge’s collapse and the A659 road bridge was rebuilt and widened in just over a year.

The report has been compiled by North Yorkshire County Council as lead local flood authority with its partners and was approved by the County Council’s Executive Members for Business and Environmental Services on 23 June. The report has now been published on the County Council’s website at www.northyorks.gov.uk/article/33662/Flood-risk-investigation-reports

The report says the current level of protection offered by the town’s flood defences is low and the risk of a repeat of 2015’s event remains. The Environment Agency is preparing a funding bid for an improved flood defence scheme and all authorities and interested parties will need to work together to secure additional funding for a scheme acceptable to the community.

Among other recommendations is that the County Council, Environment Agency and Tadcaster Flood Action Group should work together to identify opportunities to improve flood resilience within the town. The report praises the flood action group for being instrumental in improving awareness and resilience since 2015. It has acquired pumps and a digital camera to monitor water levels, developed a community emergency plan, prepared flood packs for vulnerable properties, organised events and disseminated information.

Improvements to drainage that could mitigate the impact of surface flooding should also be investigated by the County Council and Yorkshire Water. However, the report says there are no drainage improvements that could cope with a river flood of the magnitude seen in 2015. The report finds that flood levels were not significantly affected by the partial blockages of some arches of the bridge.

County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Highways, said: “The report has looked in detail at the flooding in 2015 and what further actions can be taken by the County Council and its partners, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and the flood action group, to minimise the risk of a similar event occurring again.

“I am pleased to see that the report has concluded that all partners discharged their statutory duties and that progress has been made since the flooding, and it is encouraging to see the level of commitment and involvement shown by residents. The flood action group, in particular, should be congratulated. There is no doubt Tadcaster is better prepared for flooding as a result of its activities.”

Gary Collins, Flood Risk Manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “The flooding on Boxing Day 2015 had a devastating effect on Tadcaster and many other communities across Yorkshire. We’re continuing to work with North Yorkshire County Council, Tadcaster Town Council, Tadcaster Flood Action Group and the Environment Agency to reduce flood risk in Tadcaster.

“After the flooding, we immediately cleaned and surveyed our sewer network in Tadcaster and checked all of our assets in the area to ensure they were operating as they should have been. As a longer-term project, we’re carrying out extensive modelling of how surface water flows through Tadcaster by installing flow monitors in our sewer network. This work will help us to develop our future investment plans for the area.

“As the report states, there are no possible improvements to the sewer network that we could make that would allow the sewers to cope with the magnitude of that flood event. However, we’re committed to investigating if there are any other ways we can help reduce flood risk.”