COUNCILLORS say more must be done to ensure Keighley district homes and businesses hit by destructive floods three years ago are better protected from future deluges.

They were responding to the third anniversary of the 2015 Boxing Day floods, which damaged hundreds of homes and businesses in and around the town.

Within Keighley, the Stockbridge neighbourhood was worst affected but other pockets of the town also suffered, including parts of Riddlesden, Ingrow and Dalton Lane.

There was serious flooding in areas of Silsden, Goose Eye and Crossflatts, with Mill Hey in Haworth bearing the brunt of floods in the Worth Valley.

Craven councillor Adrian Naylor, commenting on the flooding which hit low-lying parts of Silsden near Silsden Beck, said he was concerned at a lack of physical changes to infrastructure to prevent any repeat.

“We’ve had no changes at all to the water course in Silsden,” he warned. “There’s an Environment Agency study due for publication in March which will inform future planning applications.

“But in the meantime more houses are being built in Silsden – an extra 230 houses in one development at Belton Road – so water which can no longer be absorbed by fields is going to go into the beck.

“If you build on green fields you aren’t going to improve drainage. By default you’re only going to make it worse.”

He said with the potential for several hundred more homes on the old Riverside Printing Works site, the beck might need to handle even more water.

Keighley East councillor Doreen Lee helped residents hit by the 2015 flooding in Stockbridge.

She said it was hard to tell whether the situation had improved since, noting it would take similar levels of rainfall to that experienced three years ago to put the steps taken so far to the test.

“We’ve been promised that work done in North Yorkshire will help people living further downstream,” she said. But we’ll have to wait and see what effect that has.

“Stockbridge is where the Aire and Worth rivers meet and after the year 2000 floods in Stockbridge they said it wouldn’t happen again.

“But the 2015 floods were so different, because instead of the rivers overflowing it was water coming up from under the ground. I’m hopeful things have been improved since then, but am I convinced? No.”

Cllr Rebecca Poulsen represents the Worth Valley, where Haworth’s Mill Hey neighbourhood was particularly badly hit.

She said: “Every Boxing Day we look to the sky and think back to what happened in 2015. It all happened so fast.

“As a community I think we’re now better placed to deal with a situation similar to what happened back then.

“We have better links with each other and emergency plans are in place. There are infrastructure projects which would help, but these are longer term measures and aren’t yet finished.”

Keighley MP John Grogan said: “I think the study of the River Worth commissioned jointly by the Environment Agency and Bradford Council due out in the next few weeks is an important development.

“I expect it will identify improvements that could be made to strengthen defences against both river and surface flooding from Haworth to Stockbridge.

“I’m advised that the study will also include Bridgehouse Beck, Oakworth Beck and North Beck.

“The task for all politicians representing Keighley district will then be to work together to secure the funding needed to finance these improvements.

“Until we achieve this every time there is heavy rain many local residents will not sleep easy in their beds.”

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency and Bradford Council have been working collaboratively to assess the risk of flooding from both the main river and surface water in areas such as Keighley and the Worth Valley.

“£260,000 worth of Bradford’s local levy money has been used to update the hydraulic model for the River Worth, from its source above Haworth to its confluence at the River Aire in Keighley, as well as assessing the risk of surface water flooding to areas such as Stockbridge.

“Both model updates are due imminently.

“Having a better understanding of the flood risk in the area will enable us to identify viable options for reducing flood risk for the communities in the wider Worth catchment.

“Separate assessments for Haworth - Bridgehouse Beck and Oakworth’s Providence Lane culvert are being done. These assessments will evaluate the flood risk and look at potential options. “

A joint Environment Agency, Bradford Council and Yorkshire Water report states: “For the River Aire, we’ve started to develop a business case which will help us identify a shortlist of the most viable options to reduce flood risk for communities including Keighley, Bingley, Baildon and Shipley.

“We’re on schedule for the River Worth model update, which will improve our understanding of flood risk for this catchment and explore options for advanced works to reduce the risk of flooding from surface water in Keighley.”

The River Worth report is expected to be published early this year. Work is also underway on analysing flood risk for Silsden Beck.

Cllr Mike Ellis, who represents Bradford on the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, said significant progress had been made since 2015.

He added: “The whole way we think about treating flood water has changed. We know that we need to be retaining water in catchment areas.

“Land has been identified which could serve as water storage, though this land is in third party ownership and negotiations are ongoing.

“We’re investigating using Silsden, Leeshaw and Leeming Reservoirs for water storage, so we’re working with Yorkshire Water on that.

“It’s important people don’t live in fear of flooding, but we can never make guarantees, especially when it comes to preventing very localised floods because it’s difficult to predict the exact location where rain will fall.”

He said other obstacles to overcome include sewers needing maintenance beneath unadopted streets in Stockbridge and culverts in poor condition beneath privately owned properties.

He pointed out some property owners aren’t aware of damaged culverts beneath their land, or do not have the money to fix them if they are aware.

Cllr Ellis said there are plans for natural flood management schemes, with money allocated for the largest of these proposed projects on Harden Moor.

Natural flood management involves measures to reduce water run off by enabling land to absorb more water. These include planting trees and also sphagnum moss.

A Yorkshire Water spokesman said: “Following the floods we used cameras in our sewers in the Keighley and Stockbridge area to check their condition and clean out the silt left behind by the flooding.

“We’ve continued to support Bradford Council and the Environment Agency looking at longer term investment across Bradford.”

He said Yorkshire Water has conducted a £1 million “health check” on Keighley’s sewers to make sure they were not damaged or obstructed.