A DELUGE of protest has greeted the building of new flood defences on the banks of Silsden Beck.

Residents claim that girders forming part of the barrier are an eyesore in one of the village’s most picturesque locations.

Town councillors have hit back by saying the barrier by the ford in Kirkgate – still under construction – is essential in keeping residents safe.

They say the finished barrier will be in keeping with surrounding buildings because the metal will eventually be covered by wood, plants and a new wall.

The protests are being led by Val Carroll, of North Street, Silsden, who described the girders as an “abominable structure”.

She said: “This is one of Silsden's most attractive and much-photographed sites - the ford across the beck and adjacent picturesque cottages.

“This is now ruined and, as someone who cares about how Silsden looks and presents itself, I am horrified."

Cllr Andrew Mallinson, who represents Silsden on Bradford Council, said many residents had expressed concern about the look of the structure.

He said: “The girders have been there six weeks and there was a hole dug weeks before that.

“They shouldn’t have started the scheme in the first place if they didn’t have everything in place. I’m sure there could have been a more sympathetic and cheaper scheme.”

Town councillor Mick O’Dwyer, who is carrying spearheading the work with Silsden Environmental Group, defended the project.

The barrier aims to stop water breaching the beck-side in heavy rain and flooding houses in adjacent St John Street.

Building materials have been funded by Keighley Area Committee and Silsden Town Council, and construction work is being carried out by Coun O’Dwyer and fellow volunteers.

He said: “We’re doing this for nothing. We’ve got lots of people shouting their mouths off about it, but if we’d paid contractors people would have shouted more.”

Coun O’ Dwyer, now in his 70s, said: “I’ve lived here all my life and I know what it’s like when it floods. People who live near the beck are all for the gates because it’s going to keep their properties dry.”

Coun O’Dwyer said some residents of St John Street faced problems getting insurance for their homes due to potential flooding.

Town mayor Chris Atkinson said the project was being carried out in full consultation with the Environment Agency.

He described the protests as a “knee-jerk” reaction, adding: “It looks horrible at the moment because it’s galvanised steel. Once it’s painted it won’t be as bad.”

Town and district councillor Adrian Naylor said: “The project is grant-funded and is being done by volunteers – it’s not costing the people of Silsden anything.

“There have been a number of occasions over the last year or two when people have been asking for sandbags because of flooding.”