Bid to close Sheffield’s East End floodgates

SHEFFIELD FLOODS   Floods on The Wicker.   26 June 2007
SHEFFIELD FLOODS Floods on The Wicker. 26 June 2007

A STRATEGY will be presented next week to protect hundreds of businesses in the east end of Sheffield from the type of flooding that caused devastation five years ago.

Two options - one costing £10.8m, the other £7.2m - are under consideration to strengthen defences over 7km between Nursery Street in the city centre and Blackburn Brook near the M1.

The council is aiming to secure Government and European funds for the sake of 325 companies in the Lower Don Valley, some of whom say they would not be able to survive another serious flood.

Although 75% of the cost would be met from public sources, success of the scheme depends on some financial support from firms in the valley. A ballot is likely to be held in May or June next year when companies will be asked whether they are prepared to contribute around 2% of the rateable value of their business, partly on the basis of paying cheaper insurance premiums once flood barriers have gone up.

Both schemes on the table - one excludes certain areas - involve raising or strengthening walls next to the River Don, rebuilding flood and sluice gates and creating extra reservoir storage capacity at the head of the valley.

It is hoped to reduce the risk of serious flooding to once in 100 years, although the disaster of 2007 was rated once in 150 years.

The Lower Don Valley is Sheffield’s main economic zone outside of the city centre.

A council report says: “Severe flooding of the River Don in 2000 and 2007 caused significant disruption to businesses, services and power, transport and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as multi-million pound damages associated to buildings, fixtures/fittings, stock and lost business activity/trade.

“Businesses in the area have for some time raised flood risk as a major concern, notably including Sheffield Forgemasters International who are a vital engineering firm for the city, region and indeed the country as a whole given their unique expertise and capacity, as well as Tata Steel, Firth Rixson, E.ON, Yorkshire Water and Royal Mail. “Businesses of this sort are stating that they can not survive a repeat of the floods of 2007, in which case they would go out of business, or be forced to consider relocating from the area to protect their operations.

“Similarly, flood defence is a key factor in giving potential new investors confidence in the security of their future plans where sites are identified within an existing flood catchment area. The loss of key businesses and new investment in the Lower Don Valley would have a disastrous effect on the economies of Sheffield city, City Region and the wider Yorkshire region.”

Already the Government’s Environment Agency has approved £310,000 for survey, feasibility and design work.

The council’s cabinet, which will consider the situation next Wednesday, is being told by its officers that the Environment Agency can be expected to pay £3m towards either scheme. The European Regional Development Fund would be asked to pay either £3.6m or £5.5m depending on which scheme is chosen.