Floods still a threat in Sheffield

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MILLIONS of pounds have been spent on clearing debris and vegetation from rivers, repairing walls and bridges and strengthening flood defences since the devastating Sheffield flood of five years ago – but there are no guarantees that it cannot happen again.

A similar amount of rain is such a short time would set the alarm bells ringing again, despite the attempts to minimise the risk.

And that work continues.

Yorkshire Water is undertaking a £78m overhaul of the Blackburn Meadows water treatment plant near Meadowhall, which includes a new storm overflow channel and the refurbishment of a pumping station to prevent storm-related debris getting into the river. 

Meanwhile, a council-backed flood protection scheme is currently being designed for the Lower Don Valley with a view to construction starting next year.

Both the council and the Environment Agency believe they are better prepared compared with June 25, 2007, when the River Don burst its banks, leading to the flooding of 1,200 homes and 1,000 businesses in the Sheffield area.

Two people died – 14-year-old Ryan Perry as the River Sheaf turned into a torrent in Milhouses Park and 68-year-old Peter Harding as he got out of his car in the Wicker.

Parts of Stocksbridge, Oughtibridge, Chapeltown, Ecclesfield, Middlewood, Hillsborough (including the Sheffield Wednesday ground) and Neepsend bore the brunt as the Don surged towards the city centre, swelled by the River Loxley.

Areas around the Wicker and Kelham Island were devastated and the malls of Meadowhall ended up under water. Middlewood Road was closed for months after the highway collapsed.

With few flood defences and reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Upper Don Valley that filled rapidly, Sheffield could not cope. Rivers, culverts and drains were overwhelmed.

In the aftermath, the immediate priority was to clear debris and vegetation, especially around bridges where blockages had built up quickly on that day in the summer of 2007.

Work has continued on cleaning out sections of the Don and Loxley. More is needed.

Flood prevention projects have ranged from the major job of creating a landscaped area – a ‘pocket park’ – off Nursery Street to act as an overflow area for the Don to smaller schemes to channel floodwater away from vulnerable properties near Ecclesfield Park and to construct a storage pond on the Blackburn Brook.

The council says it is working with the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water, to pursue “all possible actions” to reduce the risk of flooding.

But the downpours of a couple of weeks ago, when drains blocked and owners of shops and businesses off Middlewood Road found themselves calling for sandbags and later mounting mopping-up operations, were a reminder of Sheffield’s vulnerability – and calls for the council and its partners to do more.

Council leader Julie Dore said: “The floods of 2007 were devastating for residents and businesses alike. A number of measures have been put in place to help limit something similar happening again in the future but I think we are all aware that we are increasingly faced with adverse weather conditions of all types.

“We can not give a guarantee that flooding will not occur in future as we simply can’t control the weather but what we can guarantee is that both ourselves and the Environment Agency have taken action to reduce the risk of flooding in the city.

“A similar pattern of rainfall as occurred in June 2007 would create a similar amount of flooding across the city, although both organisations have and continue to work to reduce the flood risk in Sheffield.”