Warrington Flood Risk Management Scheme

Phase 2 of £23 million River Mersey flood alleviation scheme nears completion

Nov 28th 2014

The Environment Agency reports on Twitter that work to reduce flood risk in Warrington is progressing well. In partnership with Warrington Borough Council, the Environment Agency is working on a £23 million flood alleviation scheme which includes building a series of walls and embankments along the River Mersey and its tributaries. The project is being delivered in three phases and when complete it will provide a 1 in 100 year standard of protection to around 2,000 homes and businesses.

Phase 1 of the River Mersey Flood Risk Management Scheme was completed in November 2013. This involved a combination of earth embankments and flood defence walls in the Latchford area of Warrington and now provides flood protection from the River Mersey to 1,500 homes. The Phase 1 flood defences were tested in December 2013, just weeks after completion, when a major tidal surge would have flooded hundreds of homes and businesses had it not been for the new defences. Work on the second phase of flood defences began in January 2014 in the Howley area of Warrington and is scheduled to be complete by the end of the month (November 2014). Phase 3 will include further areas of Warrington and the whole scheme is scheduled for completion in early 2016.

Warrington has a history of tidal and river flooding from the River Mersey and its tributaries, with records dating back to 1767. Figures from the Environment Agency reveal that the town is the tenth highest in the country for the number of properties at significant risk of flooding. The Environment Agency says that the most significant recent flood events were in October/November 2000 and in February 1990, when the River Mersey over-topped its banks and flooded a number of properties in Warrington.

£6 million of the £23 million project is coming from external contributions, with £2 million being contributed by Scottish Power in recognition of the benefits that the scheme will provide to one of its electricity distribution grids. The scheme will provide a 1 in 1,000 year standard of flood protection to a major high voltage substation in Warrington which is a critical asset for supplying electricity to the town. The scheme will also include the creation of new reed beds and other improvements to five hectares of environmental habitat.

For further information, see the North West Flooding website.


Photograph: River Mersey, Warrington © Copyright J Thomas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Local Flood Authorities in England face cuts in flood defence funding

Defra’s allocations reduced from £15 million to £10 million for 2015/16

Community groups say the government is going backwards on flood risk management

Nov 27th 2014

Defra’s funding to Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs) has been reduced from £15 million to £10 million for the 2015/16 financial year, sparking concerns from community groups that the government is going backwards in terms of flood risk management. Defra’s figures, published in October, show that Kent will receive the highest grant of £327,000 whilst Lincolnshire will receive the second highest of £301,000. Essex, Surrey, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Devon, Lancashire and Norfolk will each receive grants of over £200,000 whilst the smallest grant goes to the Scilly Isles (£3,000). The foot of the table also includes Rutland (£6,000) and Darlington (£9,000).

Paul Cobbing, chief executive of the National Flood Forum, is quoted in The Guardian as saying that the figures were dire. “Lead Local Flood Authorities are at the heart of flood risk management,” he said. “They are already under-resourced and this puts flood risk management backwards at the very point when a step change forwards is needed.” Mary Dhonau, a national flood campaigner, said that the cuts would mean job losses among local authority flood staff.

In response, Defra said that the funding to Lead Local Flood Authorities “was always going to be initially higher in order to allow them to gather information on local flood risk and understand how to manage the risk. The planned reduction does not affect emergency planning and recovery funding.”

Lead Local Flood Authorities are responsible for playing a lead role in emergency planning and recovery after a flood event, and investigating the causes. Their duties under the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010 also include the creation of local flood risk management strategies. However, a recent report by the National Audit Office found that just 14% of Lead Local Flood Authorities had managed to publish their flood risk strategies, though the requirement has been in place since 2011. The report also found that around a half of England’s flood defences are being maintained at a minimum level, and that the Environment Agency’s funding priorities meant that less densely populated areas were viewed as low priority as regards flood risk management.

The highest allocations by Lead Local Flood Authority are as follows:

  • Kent: £327,000
  • Lincolnshire: £301,000
  • Essex: £254,000
  • Surrey: £250,000
  • Hampshire: £230,000
  • Hertfordshire: £227,000
  • Devon: £227,000
  • Lancashire: £211,000
  • Norfolk: £207,000

At the other end of the table, the three smallest allocations are to Darlington (£9,000), Rutland (£6,000) and the Scilly Isles (£3,000).

For further details of Defra’s allocations to Lead Local Flood Authorities, see the GOV.UK website.

Met Office invests £97m in high-performance supercomputer

New supercomputer will help to make the UK more resilient to environmental risks, says Met Office Chief Executive

Nov 24th 2014

The Met Office has announced plans for a new £97 million supercomputer which will be able to perform more than 16,000 trillion calculations per second. The supercomputer will be based on both sides of the M5 at the Met Office headquarters and at Exeter Science Park. The Met Office says that, at 140 tonnes, the supercomputer will weigh the equivalent of 11 double-decker buses. The high-performance computer will be 13 times more powerful than the current system used by the Met Office and will be one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world when fully installed. The first phase of the supercomputer will be operational in September 2015 and the system is expected to reach full capacity in 2017.

The supercomputer will enable the Met Office to update forecasts every hour and to predict disruptive weather events such as flooding, strong winds and heavy snowfall more effectively. The Met Office says that its computational power also opens up the potential for higher resolution models, which would have the ability to pinpoint more detail for small scale, high-impact weather, and to provide highly detailed weather information for precise geographical areas. Scientists will also explore the benefits of adapting the resolution to improve long-term weather forecasts and to assessing the specific regional impacts of climate change such as floods and droughts.

Met Office Chief Executive Rob Varley said: “We are very excited about this new investment in UK science. It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world. The new supercomputer, together with improved observations, science and modelling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government. It will help to make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks.”

The Met Office says high performance computing is an essential component of everything it does – from daily forecasts to severe weather warnings, as well as climate change research and domestic and international collaborations. For further information, see the Met Office website.

Flood Risk Management in Shropshire – EA spends £4.37m in four years

£2.9m spent in Shrewsbury on flood defences and maintenance

“Environment Agency locally does a superb job,” says Shrewsbury MP

Nov 21st 2014

Figures reported by the Shropshire Star recently show that the Environment Agency has spent almost £4.5 million on flood defences in Shropshire over the last four years. According to the Star, the information was disclosed in the House of Commons by Defra Minister Dan Rogerson, following a Freedom of Information request from the Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski. According to Hansard, however, the MP has also quizzed the Minister in February this year and on October 10th, receiving a reply on the 17th October.

Hansard records that, between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2014, the Environment Agency spent £4,370,000 on flood alleviation in Shropshire. This figure breaks down over financial years as follows:

  • 2010/11 – £2,868,000
  • 2011/12 – £493,000
  • 2012/13 – £526,000
  • 2013/14 – £483,000

The figures include capital, revenue maintenance and the Government recovery expenditure following the winter storms of 2013/14. Capital spending totalled £2,633,000 whilst maintenance and recovery expenditure totalled £1,737,000.

£2,895,650 has been spent in Shrewsbury alone over the last four years, comprising a total capital spend of £2,462,000 and a maintenance spend of £433,650. Hansard records that the capital expenditure occurred in 2010-11, when £2.4 million was spent on the Coleham Head flood risk management scheme and £62,000 on property level protection schemes. The figures for maintenance show a gradual increase over three years, rising from £92,650 in 2010/11 to £101,000 in 2012/13. There was a sharper increase to £145,000 in 2013/14, mainly as a result of last winter’s floods.

As for the rest of Shropshire, the figures in the Shropshire Star reveal that £75,000 was spent in 2011/12 on a flood alleviation scheme for Much Wenlock and £96,000 was spent in 2012/13 on drainage improvements in Church Stretton. £41,000 was spent across Shropshire in 2013/14 on recovery work following last winter’s storms. The figures for maintenance show an increase for Shropshire as a whole, rising from £406,000 in 2010/11 to £442,000 in 2013/14.

Quoted in the Shropshire Star, Daniel Kawczynski MP said he wanted to get the figures from the Government because he feels that the Environment Agency locally does a superb job. “I think we have to keep highlighting the extraordinary work they do and how they go beyond the call of duty,” he said. “The Shrewsbury area has suffered with flooding and I have spoken to a lot of businesses who have shown me their books. The takings not only fell when Shrewsbury was flooded but they massively fell during the clear up when businesses were back to normal. This is because the national media highlighted that Shrewsbury was flooded without highlighting that it had cleared up. In the recent increase in water saturation the consensus seems to be that the Environment Agency has done a good job. So it’s very beneficial for Shrewsbury and something that needs to be celebrated.”


River Severn in Shrewsbury, February 2014.

Severn Trent outlines Birmingham Resilience Project

Elan Valley Aqueduct is showing signs of deterioration, says Severn Trent

Nov 20th 2014

Birmingham Resilience Project will safeguard water supplies for the future

Severn Trent Water is inviting people to take part in a consultation about plans to develop an alternative water supply for Birmingham, known as the Birmingham Resilience Project. Most of Birmingham’s water supply is currently provided by the Elan Valley Aqueduct which supplies the city with clean water from reservoirs in the Welsh hills. However, the aqueduct is now over a 100 years old and Severn Trent’s regular inspections have revealed that the aqueduct is showing signs of deterioration. Severn Trent says that it has been able to manage this effectively through regular maintenance, but this will become more costly and difficult as the aqueduct continues to age. It has decided that the best solution is to invest and improve it now, so that it can continue to provide customers with a reliable water supply “for many years to come.” Investing now will also mean that it doesn’t have to spend more money in the future on repairs and maintenance.

The Plans

The Birmingham Resilience Project will involve the construction of a new water pipeline linking an abstraction site on the River Severn near Stourport to Frankley Water Treatment Works. An extension to the Frankley works would treat water delivered through the new pipeline. Severn Trent has submitted its plans to OFWAT and made a commitment to deliver the project by March 2020. The Elan Valley Aqueduct will then be taken offline for maintenance when the new water supply is up and running. Severn Trent says: “Once the new supply is available in 2020 we plan to use it to make sure our customers’ supplies continue without interruption when we do work on the Elan Valley Aqueduct. The new supply will also act as a very important back-up, to help us to keep clean water flowing should we have any emergencies. We’ll have a more resilient supply for our customers in Birmingham and across our network.” It also says that the multi-million pound investment during the three year construction phase will provide an important boost to the local economy.

In order to select a suitable abstraction site, Severn Trent looked at 22 possible places along the River Severn between Trimpley and Ombersley, and assessed them against a range of technical, environmental and planning criteria. The criteria included water availability, visual impact, ecological impact, power supplies, and access requirements. It drew up a shortlist of options, carried out more detailed ground investigations, and is about to start a consultation on its preferred site near Stourport-on-Severn.


Severn Trent has already consulted with key stakeholders and with local landowners who may potentially be affected by the first part of the project; viz. the extra supply pipe and pumping station. Its proposals will be subject to a full Environmental Impact Assessment which will be part of the planning application due to be submitted in December 2015. A wider public consultation is planned for autumn 2014 and beyond. A number of workshops and public exhibitions have been announced for November and more are planned for locations along the proposed route of the pipeline.

Severn Trent has acknowledged that changing the water supply to water sourced from the River Severn is likely to change the water hardness, but says that its water treatment processes will minimise the impact of the change. It will also be meeting with angling groups to ensure that their knowledge is taken into account when developing more detailed plans.

Simon Hinsley, Severn Trent’s Resilience Manager, said: “This investment is really important and will make sure there’s a constant supply of fresh water to Birmingham. The people who know the area best are the local residents, so when we’re doing work like this, we like listening to suggestions and talking to the community to help us to find those little gems of information which can make a huge difference to our plans.”

Abstraction Licence

Severn Trent says that it will be applying for an Abstraction Licence from the Environment Agency before it starts any work. “We’ll need to provide them with clear plans to make sure we’ve addressed all possible impacts on wildlife, plant life and the composition of the river before they’ll grant a licence. The Environmental Impact Assessment will look at this and at any changes we need to make to our plans to reduce the impact of the work. It’s important to remember that we only plan to take water from the river for roughly 40 days, and we’ll do this during the winter months to make sure the impact is as small as possible.”

For further information on the Birmingham Resilience Project, see the Severn Trent website.

Groundwater flooding in Hampshire – Work begins on £3.9m flood management scheme

Hambledon was devastated by groundwater flooding in last winter’s floods

Chalk ground “acted like a sponge”

Nov 19th 2014

Work has begun on a flood management scheme for a Hampshire village which was devastated by groundwater flooding earlier this year. The village of Hambledon was under water for 40 days and more during the winter floods. About 140 properties were flooded when groundwater began to rise above ground on New Year’s Day, with the chalk ground being described by BBC News as “acting like a sponge.” One resident of the village has lived in the same house for 102 years and was quoted as saying that she couldn’t remember flooding ever being so bad.

A £3.9m flood alleviation scheme was approved by Hampshire County Council in July. Sean Woodward, executive member for Economy, Transport and Environment, said that the village of Hambledon has a long history of groundwater flooding whilst Tony Higham, chair of the Hambledon Flood Action Group, said in July that there were still villagers who were unable to use the ground floor of their homes because of flood damage. The Flood Action Group believes that the flood alleviation scheme will make a significant difference, he said.

The BBC reports that a 3ft diameter pipe will be installed under the village and drainage ditches will be cleared. Phase 1 of the scheme will involve widening ditches downstream of the village and installing larger pipes under properties. Phase two will involve the creation of floodwater culverts in a number of streets, and re-shaping and resurfacing roads to encourage any floodwater to stay within the kerbs. The work is due to be completed by the spring of 2016.


Photograph: Hambledon High Street leading towards the Parish Church © Copyright Anonymous 4452 and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Brownfield land should predominate all designated Housing Zones, says Smart Growth UK

Smart Growth UK sets out ‘Brownfield Local Development Order Principles’

Greenfield land should only be included in housing zones in exceptional circumstances, says Smart Growth UK

Nov 18th 2014

As we reported in a previous news item, the Government is aiming to build more homes by allowing local authorities to set local development orders on brownfield sites which will bypass the usual route for gaining planning permission, and also by designating a number of housing zones which are intended to unlock brownfield land for potential development. 20 housing zones have been allocated in London and 10 housing zones have been proposed for the rest of England.

The Government’s rules on housing zones allow them to contain up to 49% of greenfield land, whilst bids to develop the zones must propose a minimum of 1,000 homes for the London zones and a minimum of 750 homes for the 10 zones outside of London. The Department of Communities and Local Government and the Mayor of London are currently considering bids for the zones but Brownfield Briefing reports that only one local authority outside of London has so far put in a bid, whilst 24 expressions of interest have been made to the Mayor of London.

Smart Growth UK is now calling for a range of sustainable planning principles to be applied to the proposed housing zones, including a requirement that they should all be on brownfield land. Smart Growth UK is a coalition of civic, environmental, transport and brownfield organisations who believe that major urban developments need to satisfy certain criteria to meet the principles of sustainability. The criteria include prioritising regeneration in urban areas and regions where it is needed, emphasising brownfield-first development, and promoting town centres with a healthy mix of facilities.

Smart Growth UK published a set of principles last month which it wants local authorities to use when choosing locations for local development orders. It is now campaigning for the principles to be applied to the designation of housing zones. The ‘Brownfield Local Development Order Principles’ recommend the adoption of the following principles when choosing locations:

  • Housing zones should consist overwhelmingly of previously developed land and small areas of greenfield land should only be included in exceptional circumstances.
  • Housing zones should only be designated within the built-up footprint of existing major urban areas.
  • Any designated zones should be in places well served with public transport, rail-based where possible, or where firm plans exist for their inclusion in such networks.
  • Housing zones should not be designated within green belts or environmentally important areas.
  • Housing zones should not be designated within areas at high risk of flooding.

The principles also include a number of recommendations which it wants developers to use when designing and planning developments for the housing zones. These include recommendations on housing mix, housing density, ‘place making,’ design, layouts, sustainable building, the natural environment, conservation, and ground conditions. On the latter, the principles state that “provision must be made, and resources made available, for treatment of adverse ground conditions including instability, contamination, invasive species and flood risk. Where this cannot be achieved via the commercial return on the development, there must be public support.”

The ‘Brownfield Local Development Order Principles’ can be downloaded as a PDF from the Smart Growth UK website.


Smart Growth UK is a coalition of civic, environmental, transport and brownfield organisations and is promoting the concept of “Smart Growth” as a way of tackling the UK’s current housing shortage. Smart Growth UK also seeks to reduce dependence on high-carbon transport, avoid out-of-town development and urban sprawl, make the best use of historic buildings, and protect the countryside and biodiversity. The coalition includes the British Land Reclamation Society, the Campaign for Better Transport, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Civic Voice. For further information, see the Smart Growth UK website at “Smart Growth UK”.


Photograph: Hardstanding near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk © Copyright Adrian S Pye and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.