Three thousand residents across Keighley district and the Worth Valley have been issued with advice on what to do should reservoirs breach.
Householders living close to six ‘high priority’ sites are being sent letters explaining their homes are within so-called inundation areas, which would take the full force of flooding.
The letters are accompanied by a leaflet called Don’t Panic, Prepare! which outlines what people can do to protect themselves and their property in the case of an emergency.
Bradford Council, which distributed the letters this week according to government guidelines, has been accused of creating anxiety and generating more questions than answers.
The local authority has defended the move, stressing the likelihood of a reservoir breach is extremely low and there is “no cause for concern.”
Letters have been sent to people living close to Yorkshire Water-owned Watersheddles, Ponden and Lower Laithe reservoirs, Stanbury; Leeming above Oxenhope, Silsden reservoir and Thornton Moor.
Coun Adrian Naylor, a Silsden town councillor who also represents the Craven ward on Bradford Council, said 786 properties would be affected in Silsden, the largest number of any of the identified areas.
“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,” he said.
“Why has it taken so long for this information to come out?
“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: “I’m concerned about the fact over 780 properties in the town are receiving this letter.
“It will be up to individual householders to check the implications with their insurers. I would hope this doesn’t blight their properties.”
Worth Valley councillor Glen Miller, the Tory group leader on Bradford Council, also raised concerns about the potential impact on homeowners’ insurance.
“We have all seen the devastation that flooding has brought to large areas in recent months and we are all aware that this and other incidents in previous years have heightened insurers’ awareness of the risks to properties at certain locations,” he said.
Mike Powell, the council’s emergency planning manager, said: “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.”
Former Yorkshire water employee and Thornton and Allerton councillor Malcolm Sykes said: “ I was amazed when I heard about this letter, which is scaremongering. What the Council has done is absolutely unnecessary.”
Brett Marshall of Yorkshire Water said: “There is no reason to think the risk of flooding from reservoirs has increased. Yorkshire Water maintains all of its reservoirs to a high standard. This maintenance is prescribed and inspected by an independent, government-appointed engineer. Although the chances of there being flooding caused by a reservoir breach are very slim, it is still important that people understand the risks and how to respond.”