The people of Fishergreen heaved a sigh of relief when the Environment Agency announced their £14.4m flood alleviation scheme in Ripon.
Living on the picturesque cusp of the River Skell had its setbacks, as broken river banks and flooding blighted the road for decades.
So the promise of new flood defences along the riverbank came as welcome news to the residents of Fishergreen, who hoped months of loud and obstructive building works would be only a small price to pay for years of clear and dry pathways.
But the defences – which were formally handed over to the city in October but have been operational for almost two years – have caused home owners more distress than ever before.
Home owner Fred Crossman, 64, told the Gazette rubbish and broken trees have been left strewn in the river, the historical issue of standing water has worsened since the river bank was heightened, the drainage system is inadequate and ugly weeds have started to crop up on the soil on the south bank of the river.
“It was absolute chaos when they were doing the flood defence work,” he said. “We put up with it for two years hoping things would be a lot nicer but the road is literally a lake when it rains. All the wetness causes damage, such as potholes, and we just want some proper drainage. A chap who lives down the road had to fill a pothole up himself because we are just so fed up.
“We also used to have grass along the river but now it’s just weeds.”
Mr Crossman, who has lived on Fishergreen for 27 years, said he has “hounded” officials at North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – but he said no-one is taking responsibility for the clean-up.
Mr Crossman added that Fishergreen is heavily populated with pensioners who feel trapped in their own homes when heavy rain hits the city. Residents are now set to lobby Ripon MP Julian Smith about the issue and start their own clean-up operation.
Fishergreen home owner Barbara Dixon, 82, said she can’t even use her kitchen when standing water overfills the path outside.
“The drain gets full with water and debris and I can’t use my sink. I have to clear it all up myself,” she said.
“I have been complaining for 13 months about this and I just get excuse after excuse after excuse. It’s not rocket science, is it? I wouldn’t mind if they admitted they made a mistake. I am dreading it if it freezes.”
Ripon city Coun Stuart Martin said there may be a communication problem between NYCC and the Environment Agency, as the riverbank – now overgrown with clover weeds – has become “no-man’s land”.
“The residents have had two years of disturbance and they have done their fair share of putting up with this and now whoever is responsible needs to get the situation put right,” Coun Martin told the Gazette.
In correspondence with Coun Martin, the Environment Agency denied the need to resolve the clover issue and said two road gulleys was the correct number agreed with NYCC – despite home owners arguing 10 are needed along the road to provide sufficient drainage.
Coun Martin said his main concern is that the situation is now worse than before the defences were built.
“Residents have lived like this for two years,” he said.
“Why have they raised the bank? It means the water can’t run down and it causes more flooding.
“With two gulleys down at the far end of the road it’s just becoming a total mess. The contractors have not cleaned up after themselves and there is a constant puddle on the side of the road.”
The Environment Agency has admitted debris was left in and around the river as a result of the defence work.
A spokesman told the Gazette it is “concerned about the amount of rubbish in the River Skell”.
A spokesman added that the Environment Agency has been working with local residents to help clear up the excess mess.
“We will ensure residents are kept fully informed of our progress as we work to resolve this problem,” he said.
“We have installed two new drainage gullies on the road as part of the Ripon flood scheme, with NYCC’s agreement. We are investigating why puddles are still forming and will be working closely with our partners at NYCC to come up with a way to help.”