WORK to improve flood defences in Skipton is on schedule and will be completed by the end of the spring, says the Environment Agency.

Last December was the wettest since records began and although it was surface water that caused most of the problems in the town itself, the £13 million scheme now nearing completion has been designed to reduce the risk of flooding to more than 500 businesses and homes.

The largest of two new reservoirs built to take any overflow is at Eller Beck, next to Skipton Golf Club, while the other is at Waller Hill Beck, on farm land off the A6069 Otley Road.

Once finished and in operation, the dams will be able to store a combined total of 130 million gallons of water - or the equivalent of 230 Olympic sized swimming pools.

In the past, the two becks have swelled quickly following heavy rain and put businesses and houses at risk of flooding.

The new storage areas will slow the flow of water form surrounding hills and reduce the risk of watercourses hitting the town centre.

The Environment Agency says the majority of the construction work has now been completed and mechanical and electrical work will be done early in the new year.

Top soiling and landscaping of the sites will take place once weather conditions are more favourable.

In the town centre itself, work has been completed at Brookside, while the play area at Ginnel Mews will be refurbished by the end of February, along with work at Devonshire Place.

An additional top layer of heavy duty coping stones is to be added to the new flood wall outside Morrisons supermarket, off Broughton Road.

This, in addition to further work at the rear of next door B&M stores, is expected to be completed by the spring.

Project manager for the Environment Agency Oliver Wilson said: “We can never totally remove the possibility of flooding when catastrophic conditions occur, but the scheme will greatly reduce the probability of the town flooding with the frequency it has done in the past."

And he urged residents and businesses to sign up to the agency's free flood warnings direct service. To sign up, go to the website or contact Floodline on 0345 988 1188 for the latest flood updates.