AN INQUIRY is set to examine why dozens of communities in North Yorkshire were hit by recent flooding and what measures could prevent it happening again.

Many homes were flooded by ground and surface water last month and concerns over access to villages and towns near the River Swale rose after it burst its banks for the second time in three months, leading to the closure of many roads.

Following downpours the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, was forced to cancel all planned surgery as firefighters spent hours pumping water away from the infirmary and its surrounding streets “due to drainage issues”.

Councillors also questioned the Environment Agency over its £14m flood defence scheme in Ripon after a residential area was deluged.

North Yorkshire County Council, which is responsible for assessing and managing the risk of flooding from groundwater and surface water, said the inquiry would start after emergency operations had been completed.

It is thought some properties in Malton and Norton could remain flooded until Christmas.

While an excess of surface water is being blamed for most of the flooding in the Ryedale towns, the problem was aggravated by water from natural springs coming up through the ground due to the saturated water table.

Mark Young, the council's flood management officer, said: "Areas like Malton are rare where the ground water levels rise to such a level in the underlying rock it comes out.

"We are looking at what we can do to warn and inform people of the risk and also to look to see where levels can be pumped down. There are certainly things we want to look at to protect properties where we can."

Mr Young said the inquiry would involve all the authority's partners in flood risk management.

He said: "While we are looking seriously at issues in Malton, we are also kicking off an investigation right across the county to make sure that all those communities who have suffered flooding do not feel their problems are being ignored."