UK Floods – Repair and Development of Flood Defences in Yorkshire and North East

Six months on from the devastating floods of December 2015, the Environment Agency is embarking on a significant programme of repairs to flood defences damaged by the flooding.

More than 9,000 householders and businesses across north and west Yorkshire were affected by the flooding and have spent much of this time dealing with its effects.

Over the last six months the Environment Agency (EA) has conducted a massive recovery operation assessing and repairing damaged flood defences, walls and structures so that they can continue to protect communities.

The EA has checked nearly 8,500 assets in total and had completed all the emergency repairs by the end of February. Field teams and contractors have worked tirelessly to build temporary defences and clear obstructions such as collapsed bridges, buildings, thousands of tonnes of gravel, debris and vehicles from rivers to reduce further flood risk at 150 locations.

Phil Younge, major incident recovery manager at the Environment Agency said:

“The floods of December 2015 had a terrible impact on peoples’ lives, homes and businesses across the county. Sadly, some residents and businesses are still feeling the effects such flooding events can bring.

“Teams are working hard to get defences back in a condition they were prior to flooding. We are on track to achieve this huge challenge, and our teams are working tirelessly to restore protection to communities.

“Building resilience in those communities badly affected last December is key and we have been working closely with risk management authorities, local communities and other partners to form a collaborative approach for these areas.”

Programme of Work

While work continues to clear many more sites the Environment Agency is beginning its programme of work to tackle the larger scale repairs to damaged flood defences.

This week they are rebuilding walls near Shade School and behind the market in Todmorden, which collapsed in the floods. Debris and gravel is also being cleared from the channel to improve the flow of water near the school. Further gravel removal works are being planned across Calderdale in the coming weeks, as well as wall repairs.

Flood bank and wall repairs are being done on the River Aire, from the lower reaches of the catchment at Airmyn, all the way through Leeds and up to Skipton, where defences have slipped or been damaged by the floods.

On the River Wharfe, work is about to start to repair a bank slip at Collingham near Wetherby, which was another community affected by the Christmas floods.

The target is to restore assets back to pre-winter 2015 standards by the end of September 2016.

Another important area of Environment Agency work has been supporting those affected by the flooding. They’ve visited around 150 communities, providing support in a variety of ways including holding community events, advising on flood resilience measures and sharing plans for future flood alleviation schemes.

Asset recovery and engagement work has been a priority for the Environment Agency over the last six months, but it’s only part of the story. Since December 2015, the government have announced £115 million for flood defence investment in Leeds, York and the Calder Valley. Work to upgrade the Foss Barrier Pumping Station began in April and is progressing well and three temporary pumps have been installed as well as a temporary elevated platform on which to house all the equipment while work to install new equipment.

The Foss Flood Barrier, Photo: Carl Spencer, CC BY-NC 2.0
The Foss Flood Barrier, Photo: Carl Spencer, CC BY-NC 2.0

Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee

Meanwhile in the North East of England, a flood and coastal group will oversee spending of more than £24million to protect hundreds of homes across the North East as it sets out its objectives for the next year.

The Northumbria Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (NRFCC) has launched its business plan for 2016/17, which will include work at Blyth, Killingworth, Hartlepool Headland Walls and Greatham South.

It also announced in its 2015/16 annual report that it’s overseen 125 projects costing £27million over the past year.

When all the work is complete it will have reduced the risk to 1,458 properties, while also making improvements to the environment.

Projects include the completion of the Port Clarence scheme at Wilton Engineering’s site in Teesside, the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme’s upstream dam and storage area – which operated for the first time in January – the Fellgate Estate scheme in South Tyneside, as well as the coastal scheme at Skinningrove.