Nearly 800 residents in Silsden are being warned they are at risk if a reservoir bursts.
Householders living close to six “high priority” sites – including Silsden Reservoir – are being sent letters explaining their homes are within so-called inundation areas, which would take the full force of flooding.
And included with the missive is a booklet, Don’t Panic Prepare!, outlining what people can do to protect themselves and their property in the case of an emergency.
Bradford Council, which has distributed the letters this week, has been accused of creating anxiety amongst people and generating more questions than answers.
But it has defended the move, stressing the likelihood of a reservoir breach is extremely low and there is “no cause for concern”.
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 said “I’m concerned that this letter has come out and whilst it might be a bureaucratic notice, it will understandably cause concern to those who receive it.
“Following the recent issues of flooding it may be, by warning residents of all possible eventualities, an attempt by the authorities to cover their backs.
“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 he was concerned for the 786 residents in the area: “It will be up to individual householders to check the implications with their insurers. I would hope this doesn’t blight their properties.”
Mike Powell, the council’s emergency planning manager, stressed that all the reservoirs in the Bradford district were safe and maintained to “very high standards”.
But he added: “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 people 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.
He explained“There has been no increase in the risk of reservoir failure in the Bradford district.”