Three thousand residents across Keighley district and the Worth Valley have been warned they are at risk if reservoirs burst.
Householders living close to six high-priority sites have been sent letters explaining their homes are within “inundation areas” that would take the full force of flooding.
Included is a booklet – Don’t Panic, Prepare – outlining what people can do to protect themselves and their property in case of emergency.
Bradford Council, which distributed the letters this week, has been accused of creating anxiety among residents and generating more questions than answers.
But it defended the move, stressing the likelihood of a reservoir breach was extremely low and there was “no cause for concern”.
Letters have been sent to people living close to Watersheddles, Ponden and Lower Laithe reservoirs, Stanbury; Leeming, above Oxenhope, Silsden reservoir and Thornton Moor.
Coun Adrian Naylor – a Silsden town councillor who also represents Craven ward on Bradford Council – said 786 properties would be affected in Silsden, the largest number of any of the identified areas.
He told us: “I’m concerned that this letter has come out. While it might be a bureaucratic notice, it will understandably cause concern to those who receive it. It may be, by warning residents of all possible eventualities, an attempt by the authorities to cover their backs.
“Why has it taken so long for this information to come out?
“Another issue is what this will do to people’s ability to obtain home insurance or sell their property if they are deemed to be in an ‘at risk’ area.”
Silsden Town Council chairman, Chris Atkinson, said: “I’m concerned about the fact over 780 properties in the town are receiving this letter.
“It will be up to individual householders to check the implications with their insurers. I would hope this doesn’t blight their properties.”
Worth Valley councillor Glen Miller, the Tory group leader on Bradford Council, also raised concerns about the potential impact on homeowners’ insurance.
Letters are going to residents in the Oxenhope and Haworth areas, both within his ward.
“We have all seen the devastation that flooding has brought to large areas in recent months and we are all aware that this and other incidents in previous years have heightened insurers’ awareness of the risks to properties at certain locations,” he said.
He added: “It would also be beneficial if local people were informed of any implications for the council’s plans relating to house building. Will building on land that could potentially be affected be prohibited or treated as any other application?
“Whilst the letter from the council to potentially affected residents is informative, it raises many important questions that need answering.”
Mike Powell, the council’s emergency planning manager, stresses that reservoirs in the Bradford district are safe and maintained to “very high standards”.
But he adds: “We and other authorities such as the Environment Agency have a statutory responsibility to prepare for any eventuality which might put people who live within the vicinity of a reservoir at risk.
"We also have a duty to advise those living near reservoirs of our plans and suggest ways people can appropriately react to any emergency which might arise, which is why we have distributed the ‘Don’t Panic’ booklet.
"There has been no increase in the risk of reservoir failure in the Bradford district.”