WORK to build a reservoir upstream from a town with a long history of flooding is set to start, more than two years after a scheme was abandoned after costs doubled to £3.2m.

The Environment Agency’s £2m flood storage reservoir scheme in Newtondale, on the North York Moors, will hold back more than 100,000 cubic metres of flood water from reaching Pickering at times of peak flow down Pickering Beck.

The agency said while the reservoir would not prevent all floods, it has estimated the risk of flooding in the town in any one year will reduce from 25 per cent to a four per cent chance.

Major deluges have been recorded in Pickering in 1979, 1999, 2002, 2007 and last year.

The scheme follows a decade-long campaign by residents and politicians demanding action to protect the town.

In 2008, campaigners, including 90-year-old resident Topsy Clinch, set up a living room in the beck, and took a petition to parliament after flood waters devastated 100 homes and businesses, causing in excess of £5m damage.

The Slowing the Flow Partnership chairman, Jeremy Walker, said it was hoped the scheme would start next week.

He said: “We are delighted that at last we have an affordable scheme and the funds available to build it.

“It has taken a long time and several false starts to get to this point.“

Key features of the revised plan are to use excavated clay from other projects in North Yorkshire, such as at Brompton, near Northallerton, which will save several hundred thousand pounds in materials costs and to complete the work by April, to avoid disruption to the North York Moors Railway and to the town’s tourist season.

Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh congratulated Pickering, Ryedale and North Yorkshire councils, the Yorkshire Flood and Coastal Committee, the agency and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for undertaking a partnership approach which would see construction start next week.

She said: “Taken with the other flood alleviation measures, such as planting trees, woody debris dams, timber bunds and other means to block the water running off the moors, such ways of working closely with nature will allow the Pickering Pilot Project to be a flagship scheme for other parts of the country.”

Dan Rogerson, Environment Minister, said: “This scheme will significantly reduce the chance of flooding in the town and give much needed relief to local residents and businesses, helping to build a stronger economy.”