Pateley Bridge at 7:30am, 16 Feb 2020

Better understanding needed to help communities prepare for floods

30 November 2020

A report has called for further work to understand the nature of flood events so that communities can be better prepared and more resilient.

The North Yorkshire County Council report, which has been approved by the council’s Executive members for Business and Environmental Services, follows an investigation into flooding in North Yorkshire in February 2020.

The report investigates the factors leading to the flooding and makes recommendations for further work to understand better the mechanisms of the events and how communities can be more prepared and resilient to flooding.

Earlier this year, North Yorkshire experienced severe flooding after several weeks of very heavy rain. According to the Met Office, it was the wettest February since records began in 1981. Rivers in the county received more than three times their average rainfall – between 320 and 375 per cent. This resulted in 26 communities in southern and western parts of the county experiencing flooding.

Storms Ciara and Dennis saw the River Ribble rise to record levels on February 9, along with the Wharfe at Netherside Hall. Towns and villages affected by flooding included Settle, Gargrave, Skipton, Pateley Bridge, Masham and Boroughbridge.

Further downstream along the River Aire, the consecutive storms affected already saturated flood plains, meaning areas around Hirst Courtney and West Bank flooded.

Although numerous flood warnings were issued throughout February and March, the amount of water that flowed through the Lower Aire exceeded all modelled scenarios.

The report makes recommendations for further work to understand better the mechanisms of the event to enable a strengthened response in future. It also recommends work be undertaken to help communities increase their readiness and resilience, including encouraging people to make their properties more resilient, and to enable quicker recovery following flood events in North Yorkshire.

The County Council will continue to work with other risk management authorities, including the Environment Agency, to deliver the work, particularly in the Lower Aire where the capacity of washland areas was exceeded. Work to review and further assess the flows and capacity of the Aire is already under way by the Environment Agency.

The full report can be read at

Cllr Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, said:

Yet again communities in North Yorkshire have been affected by flooding caused by heavy and prolonged rainfall. I welcome the findings and recommendations of this report, which the County Council and other risk management authorities will use to work with communities to improve resilience to future such events.


Karl Battersby, Corporate Director for Business and Environmental Services, said:

The floods in February this year were catastrophic. They caused damage and distress in many North Yorkshire communities and the impacts were devastating for those who were affected by them.

Climate change projections do suggest that there will be an increase in rainfall and storm events in the future and the consequences of this change to our weather patterns will inevitably be a rise in the number of flood incidents that are experienced. Through effective emergency planning and by preparing for these events, communities can often deal with the impacts far more effectively and return to normal life more quickly.

We will continue to work with communities to look at ways in which we can minimise the effect these events have on residents and businesses by focusing on resilience and strengthening the ability to recover faster should the same circumstances happen again.


Kimberley MacPherson, flood risk manager at the Environment Agency, said:

The February floods had a devastating impact on communities across North Yorkshire, and our thoughts remain with them, especially those families who still cannot return to their homes.

We are doing all we can to work with those affected to keep them updated with our work to repair flood defences and ensure they are ready for winter. As well as our repair programme, we are doing further assessments of the flows and flood mechanisms from the River Aire and washlands that can help inform future plans for the area so that we can better protect and prepare homes and businesses from flooding and create climate resilient places.

Since the February flood, we have been working closely with North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Internal Drainage Board to learn from the floods and plan for the future, with the impacts of climate change at the front of our minds. We’re also working with communities to help them become better prepared for any risk of flooding, improving our warning and informing, and recruiting community flood wardens.

We advise everyone to check their flood risk at our Flood Warning Service website, and find out what they can do to be prepared in the event of a flood.

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