VITAL dredging work has started in a bid to prevent future flooding at one of the worst-hit areas in the borough - but a councillor has urged Environment Agency bosses to gauge more residents’ opinions after a winter of high waters.

Environment Agency workers are on site at Bulling Dike, which runs through Low Valley and Darfield, as it has been blamed for exacerbating issues caused by the River Dearne and River Dove bursting their banks, which both skirt the area.

Fields around each watercourse have been swamped in recent months, with the worst happening in November and two more ‘very near misses’ this month thanks to deluges from Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis a week later.

According to Coun Trevor Smith, workers arrived at the dike earlier this week to carry out ‘essential’ dredging, something which he claims has not been done for about a decade.

“I’ve been campaigning for better flood defences since I was elected as it’s absolutely essential more protection is given to local residents,” he added.

“I’m over the moon that work has finally started as it’s long overdue. Bulling Dike is vital as it should take flood water from the pit ponds at Netherwood Bridge and the Dove, but it can’t because it hasn’t been dredged in so long.

“Hopefully this will prove to be a big step in the right direction, but I believe bosses behind the anti-flooding project need to start listening to residents more as ultimately they’re the ones who witness incidents.

“If we had meetings three times a year, or even six-monthly with the reformed flooding group, we would be able to pass on their concerns.”

A six-figure project - dubbed Wings Across The Ings - has been taking place throughout 2019, delivered by The Garganey Trust, which has focused on improving wildlife habitats and providing ‘greater flood risk protection’ for local residents through a new waterway channel and bund system, which includes the Wombwell Ings gypsy site which was under water in November.

Although Barnsley Council’s recently-agreed budget proposals allocated £1.5m for the repairing and strengthening of gullies which were unable to cope with the deluge, Coun Smith said Station Road in Wombwell - which has a watercourse running underneath - remains particularly vulnerable.

He is calling for work there, and the re-positioning of gabion baskets from Netherwood Bridge, to alleviate concerns over the two river banks’ rigidity after they effectively collapsed in November where the baskets - which are filled with stone - were not positioned.

“This area of Barnsley simply must be a priority as it’s the worst-affected part of the borough,” he said. “Darfield and Wombwell are hotspots, people are concerned and they deserve better.

“Places like Darton have always seemed to be the priority but residents should not be living in fear each time it rains.

“We all know what happened in November, but we’ve been perilously close to flooding again twice this month.”

MP Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, has criticised the government’s response to the issue and called for more funding aside from the council’s own commitment.

“People from my community are fed up with the response to the escalating risk and damage,” she added. “They want assurances that everything is being done to prevent damage at this scale from ever happening again.

“We need action urgently to help households recover from the most recent flooding and a longer-term investment plan to make our region more resilient to floods.

“I hope the government will acknowledge the level of devastation caused by flooding in South Yorkshire. We need investment urgently to support the victims and to prevent flooding such as November’s from ever happening again.”