Telegraph Voices: Ensuring the devastating floods of 2007 never happen again

Amey operations director Darren Butt and Sheffield Council's cabinet member for environment Bryan Lodge launch a new strategy for communicating the tree felling programme as part of the Streets Ahead contract.
Amey operations director Darren Butt and Sheffield Council's cabinet member for environment Bryan Lodge launch a new strategy for communicating the tree felling programme as part of the Streets Ahead contract.

We need right balance between protecting landscape and city

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment, Sheffield Council

Millhouses Park, where the woman broke her leg after slipping on a path

Millhouses Park, where the woman broke her leg after slipping on a path

We all remember the 2007 floods that caused such devastation to the city and, tragically, the loss of two lives, including Ryan Parry, aged 14, in Millhouses Park.

Ten years on, we at Sheffield City Council are doing all we can to ensure that flooding never occurs on such a huge scale in this city, ever again.

Ours is potentially one of the largest investment programmes in the country when it comes to flood protection, and we need to get it right.

We also need funding from Government to make our proposals a reality.

Volunteers Eileen Fox and Ann le Sage at the Forge Damn restoration who helps keep the area tidy and have made some arrangements from foliage they have collected

Volunteers Eileen Fox and Ann le Sage at the Forge Damn restoration who helps keep the area tidy and have made some arrangements from foliage they have collected

It may seem like little has been done in many areas since the terrible flooding of 10 years ago.

But the reality is that, working with the Environment Agency, we are progressing six schemes across Sheffield that will together increase flood protection all over the city.

One of those schemes, in the Lower Don Valley, is nearly complete, while others – in areas including the Upper Don, the Sheaf and Porter Brook, the Blackburn Brook and on the Manor and Arbourthorne estates – are at early stages.

In the next few weeks, and after considering comments raised by members of the public during the consultation, preferred options for flood alleviation measures will be selected for the Sheaf and Upper Don catchment areas.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust CEO Liz Ballard

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust CEO Liz Ballard

These options will include a range of flood protection measures and will be the ones best suited to protecting the city from extreme flood events, while also taking into account consultation responses, Government cost-benefit rules and any potential environmental impact.

Then, an outline business case will be submitted to central Government later in the year.

If approved for government funding, a process of detailed design will get underway during 2018.

This will involve further public consultation, to ensure that the final designs are the best they can be.

We need to create the right balance between protecting our landscapes and protecting this city from the scale of flooding we suffered 10 years ago.

What impact will defences have on park? Ann le Sage, chair of Friends of the Porter Valley

We can’t have flood damage like we had in 2007 again. That was terrible. Two people lost their lives and many lost their livelihoods.

We have to do something and that might involve compromise, but we don’t know the impact on Endcliffe Park of the proposals.

They’ve done line drawings and pretty pictures but there’s a lot of technical detail needed.

To create a storage area in the park requires a considerable amount of construction.

The original idea involved creating a horseshoe-shaped embankment and channelling the water into that area to prevent flooding, but we don’t know how they would do that.

As a friends group, we want to be cooperative. We’re not a pressure group opposed to all change.

But we do need to ensure that public access is maintained, and that the park can continue to host the many events staged here.

On TripAdvisor, Endcliffe Park is ranked 12th on a very lengthy list of things to do in Sheffield. Our surveys have shown half a million people pass through each year. It’s clearly a very popular park.

People pass through it to get to lots of places, and lots of people use it for picnics or barbecues, or to visit the café.

We also have Tramlines here and many other big events, including the annual duck race, which attracts more than 4,000 people.

I understand why the council wants to use Endcliffe Park as a flood storage area, because the potential is huge.

I’m waiting for an invitation from the flood prevention team so we can have a discussion about Endcliffe Park and what might be feasible.

When we have those details, we will look at them and almost certainly run some sort of consultation.

Make space for water by working with nature - Liz Ballard, chief executive, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

As CEO of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, it’s safe to say I love our natural spaces.

Not only are they great for wildlife, they lift our spirits and provide us with many of the things we take for granted – clean air and water, food and flood control.

We really welcome the council taking a strategic approach to flood risk management across the city as climate change means there is a likelihood of greater flood risk in the future.

However, we continue to ask the council to apply ‘all the tools in the box’ to help protect the city, including natural flood risk management and soft engineering, and to avoid using important local wildlife sites and ancient woodlands as flood storage areas unless they are truly the only and last resort.

Following the first consultation, it was good to see the council had responded to requests and removed a number of important wildlife sites from the list of potential ‘flood storage areas’.

However, there are still plans to build large embankments to hold water back on wildlife sites in Mayfield, Rivelin, Roscoe and Loxley Valley. We are waiting to hear about these proposals.

At Centenary Riverside, working with Rotherham Council, we used ‘soft engineering’ to create a flood storage area and nature reserve to hold back water from Rotherham town in times of flood.

Importantly, we chose this site carefully to ensure the project added value for people and for wildlife.

These approaches could be used across Sheffield and are cheaper than unsightly hard engineering, but must be in the right places.

Natural flood risk management uses changes such as tree planting and re-wetting to keep water out of the city.

We should invest in these now and make space for water in ways that work with nature, rather than against it.

New measures to combat old problems - Richard Ashley, emeritus professor of urban water, University of Sheffield

The way in which we manage flooding is changing and has to. Flooding can never be eliminated entirely and excess water needs to be handled safely even as the risks are increasing.

In the early 2000s I was part of the national scientific team who produced a series of reports on future flooding across the UK.

These were world-leading studies of how flood risks would change over the next century due to climate and other changes.

These reports were updated in 2008 and again in 2016. In each study we showed that the risks are increasing at a rate that is unaffordable to combat using the sorts of defence measures we always used in the past. So new ways are being employed.

We have to make more space for the water that will be on the surface, similarly to the Dutch Room for the River programme that allows the Rhine to spread out in many parts of the Netherlands.

This means changing how we manage land to let this happen and even sometimes to move people to safe areas to live so their once dry land can be allowed to flood when really needed to protect others.

There are all sorts of new ways of going about this. Some of these were explored in a recent European partnership project called MARE with Sheffield City Council that shared best practice across a number of countries.

At the time we were working on MARE, we concluded that it would be necessary to find new areas where flood water could be temporarily stored in order to protect Sheffield.

Like Pickering in North Yorkshire, these areas would be most effective if they were upstream of the urban conurbation and in existing open areas with little development.

Such areas can also often be used to enhance nature and provide spaces for new recreation and public use.

Therefore, the measures proposed include combinations of areas to slow the flow, improve the conveyance, strengthen protection and add areas for temporary storage.