Skipton businesses are gearing up for months of disruption as Yorkshire Water prepares to dig up much of one of the town’s busiest car parks.

The £900,000 project to build a massive underground water tank beneath Coach Street Car Park is set to begin on Monday, January 7 and will take around six months to complete.

Up to half of the car park will be taken up while work is in progress. Work will also take place on Bridge Street and there will be no access to the car park from Gargrave Road.

Instead, access to it and Spindle Mill will be via High Street and Swadford Street.

Yorkshire Water, which yesterday held a two-hour drop-in session at the Swadford Centre to explain the scheme, says the work is necessary to prevent sewer flooding of 13 nearby properties.

The huge, circular underground tank, measuring 15 metres in diameter and 10 metres deep, will be capable of holding 1,200,000 litres of storm water during wet weather.

It will be held in the tank until water levels fall and it can be released safely back into the sewer network.

But business owners are concerned about the impact on hard pressed shops.

Joan Evans, owner of Oswaldtwistle Mills in Coach Street, said the work must go ahead if it was necessary, but questioned why it should take so long.

“I’m not happy about it at all,” he said. “If it had been for three months it wouldn’t have been so bad, but when it’s going to go into the summer, it does seem an awful long time and there’s going to be a lot of disruption. It is a blow, particularly when things have been so difficult.”

Mrs Evans hoped that the town council and Skipton BID would be able to make sure visitors to the town are encouraged to still go to the Coach Street end of town.

With up to half of the car park out of action for six months, and the possibility of up to six car parking spaces lost permanently, Craven District Council is likely to lose a substantial amount of revenue.

Skipton councillor Polly English said she had been contacted by a resident of nearby properties whose home had been hit by flooding and has reported it to North Yorkshire County Council.

She added: “There will be a huge amount of inconvenience for the town. Half of the car park will be written off and there will be a large financial loss to Craven District Council, but it has to be done.”

A Yorkshire Water spokeswoman said: “We have liaised closely with the council regarding the lost spaces while we’re on site, including any financial implications this may have.

“We’re also looking into the possibility of additional parking for around 30 council office workers who would usually use the car park to help minimise disruption to traders and businesses.”

Dominic Cunney, Yorkshire Water’s project manager, said: “We recognise that a project like this is always likely to result in some disruption and we want to reassure road users, residents and businesses that we’ll be doing everything we can to keep any potential disruption to an absolute minimum, working with the community to accommodate their thoughts and needs wherever possible.”

The Skipton scheme is part of the company’s £120 million investment to upgrade its sewer network and treatment facilities.