DEMOLITION work is about to begin on five cottages left teetering on the edge of disaster following the floods that have hit the region.

The 150-year-old homes on Aelfleda Terrace in Whitby were left hanging by a sheer drop after a landslide swept away the gardens and patios behind them earlier this week.

Today engineers installed a temporary road for the contractors - after permission was hurriedly granted by English Heritage because of the historic sensitivities of the site which overlooks the harbour near Whitby Abbey.

Two site compounds are also being created nearby and tomorrow a platform will be created by the stricken cottages – mostly holiday lets - so the contractors can carry out the work from the safety of a cherry-picker.

Because of the lack of space around the site and the need to ensure the properties do not collapse down the slope, work will be carried out in a steady, step-by-step approach.

Heavy plant machinery cannot be used because of the site’s instability and inaccessibility and the contractors will work throughout the night, over the weekend and into next week. It is not clear at this stage how long the work will take.

Yorkshire Water's manager of community engagement, Richard Sears, confirmed there was an ongoing legal dispute with the residents of the terrace about drainage issues.

He said it was possible, given the devastation, that the cause of the landslip may never be known, adding: "Were not going to jump to conclusions about exactly whats happened here. There clearly are questions around the amount of rainfall that's falling these days and what that does to ground conditions."

Meanwhile, in the badly-hit Ryedale area, a range of agencies are also working round-the-clock to tackle the effects and potential impact of the flood water. High volume pumps have been deployed at Malton, Old Malton and Norton.

Flood defences are being continually checked by engineers from the Environment Agency who are satisfied that they can withstand the current and predicted water levels.

Although the Derwent has peaked, the river remains high, with just a brick wall holding back the river from homes in Norton. Today water was seeping through mortar and cracks in the wall onto the pavement on the other side, reaching several feet up the inside of the wall..

Norton resident Lizzie Murphy, said today: "At 10.30pm last night the police came and knocked on our doors and told us to move our stuff upstairs just in case the wall goes. Everybody thought there was a massive risk the wall would go.

"If this wall cracks this water will just whoosh through the streets."

Another Norton resident, Peter Shaw, said: "You can see the river seeping through the cracks in the wall, the longer it stays like this, the more the mortar in the wall will perish."

County Bridge, across the River Derwent between Malton and Norton, remains closed as do a number of minor roads across the entire county.

And with temperatures now starting to plunge road conditions for motorists are becoming a serious concern.

Since midnight on Thursday there have been at least 16 collisions and the county council’s fleet of gritters have been attempting to make the roads safer since Wednesday night.

Motorists are urged to follow designated diversion routes and to drive with extra care.