FEARS that Yarm could be at risk from flooding caused by a build-up of debris under its bridges were raised this week.

Rob Sunley, of West Street, accused the Environment Agency of penny-pinching and ignoring the problem, which he claims has been exacerbated by the loss of tidal movement since the building of the Tees Barrage.

He told the D&S Times: "The Yarm bridges will soon be dammed by the debris collecting beneath them and then cause flooding of Yarm, and possible bridge failure, if allowed to build up without any intervention by those who have been given millions of pounds of public money for flood protection in Yarm.

"How much longer is the agency to be allowed to waste millions on rebuilding the flood defence walls twice in ten years, yet fail to spend thousands to protect the river from floods by the simple maintenance that they used to do."

But a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said it was aware of the blockages under the road bridge over the river.

However, because of increased river flows, it had not been safe to undertake clearance work so far. She said: "The Environment Agency has already cleared two blockages at the end of last year and in January.

"In addition, some of the debris is very large and there is the risk of damaging the structure of the bridge if the proper assessments are not made.

"The agency has already met British Waterways and will meet the local council later this week to discuss what action might be necessary."

She added: "Public perception is that blockages of bridge arches cause problems with river flow and have a knock-on effect on flooding.

"Current information indicates that, due to the size and height of the arches, the current blockage would not appear to be causing significant flooding problems at the moment."

A spokesman for Stockton Borough Council said: "We support the Environment Agency and British Waterways on an ongoing basis to ensure that appropriate works are undertaken to remove debris caught up on the bridge, so as not to add to the overall flood risk to Yarm."