On 30 November we attended Sheffield City Council’s Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee for an update on the Protecting Sheffield from Flooding programme.
The Council is still focussing on two schemes on the Upper Don [link to Upper Don catchment options pdf] and River Sheaf [link to Sheaf catchment options pdf] in the city area.
At Scrutiny Committee, we heard that the Rivelin Roscoe flood storage area, which entails constructing a large 11-12m high barrier across the valley, remains a key proposal, subject to wider national discussions about water storage in reservoirs. No clear timeline was set out going forwards, due to uncertainties over funding and the national reservoir storage discussion. Little emphasis has been placed on natural flood risk management to date, with the Environment Agency (EA) stating that gains are felt to be small and would take too long to be realised. We highlighted the Trust’s work in this area and that we are continuing to explore natural flood risk management opportunities within our Sheffield Lakeland Landscape project with the EA and others. We believe any upstream improvements should be considered as they may at the very least help to reduce the scale of flood defences in areas such as the Rivelin Valley. Rivelin Roscoe must remain as a last resort option after all others have been thoroughly and robustly considered.
The Council, working with the EA, have struggled to secure the required funding of over £100m for the scheme. The original funding from Government seems to no longer be available or prioritised for Sheffield, although there is some match funding on offer. The Council has allocated £4m and, with match from Government, this would take the possible total to £8m. However, this still leaves a significant shortfall of the estimated £53m for the Upper Don scheme alone. As a result, the Council are now planning to take a phased approach to the scheme as and when funding is secured but this obviously requires careful modelling.
On Tuesday 21 November, Angela Smith MP referred to our response and recommendations to the Sheffield proposals at a Parliamentary select committee meeting, highlighting the importance of natural flood management. An extract from the transcript of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s evidence session on The Work of the Environment Agency can be found in the downloads.
We welcome the reduction of the proposed list of schemes so that the Local Wildlife Sites Mayfield, Loxley Wisewood (an ancient woodland) and important areas for outdoor recreation are no longer included. We do not know how the new shortlist was arrived at, or whether a report will be made publicly available.
We note that Wharncliffe Side flood storage area is still on the proposals list. As we have previously stated, if this could be created without impacting negatively on Wharncliffe Side, and if the landowner were supportive, then there could be potential here to create a new flood storage nature reserve/urban nature park, along the lines of the award-winning Centenary Riverside in Rotherham.
Rivelin Roscoe is still on the proposals list. We have met with the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group and looked at the proposed scheme and landscape drawings for this popular and well-used wildlife corridor and recreation link to the Sheffield Lakeland and National Park. We do have concerns about the current scheme proposed for this site. At the previous Scrutiny meeting, following more detailed questioning by the Committee members and the community present, it became clear that the construction of a significant barrier or dam like structure would be required in order to use the Rivelin Valley as a water storage facility as proposed by the Council/Arup. We urge the Scrutiny committee to be thorough in its consideration of this scheme and the wider impact it may have on Sheffield and the city’s reputation. We also ask the Committee to continue to recommend that all the ‘tools in the box’ are considered and thoroughly worked through before it is determined that damming the Rivelin Valley is the only option that remains to prevent Sheffield from flooding.
Update (April 2017)
The consultation results are now available with sites shortlisted by Sheffield City Council for more detailed consideration.
Sites no longer being considered include: Totley Brook (Gillifield Woods); Whiteley Woods; Beeley Wood; two of the three Loxley Valley schemes; and one of the two Rivelin Valley schemes. We are really pleased to see that a significant number of important wildlife sites have been removed from the list. However, there are still three schemes of concern on the revised shortlist: Mayfield; Loxley Wisewood; and Rivelin Roscoe.
We are also pleased to see that some of our requests to consider natural flood management and upstream solutions are now being considered and a partnership group is being established to develop this further, which we have been asked to join. We will continue to be an active stakeholder in the next stages and, as always, we welcome your views.
Read the latest news here.
Update (October – December 2016)
During August to October 2016, a public consultation was undertaken on Flood Protection proposals for Sheffield – including some controversial locations for Flood Storage Areas and in particular proposals on ancient woodland and local wildlife sites. The more controversial options being considered are ‘flood storage areas’ – designated open space where flood water can collect, before draining off gradually without reaching buildings. Options include building large embankments across Rivelin and Loxley Valleys and some ancient woodland sites in Sheffield. We have analysed the proposals and spoken to many people about potential impacts and alternatives and we submitted our response in the autumn (available below).
In December, we were really pleased to be asked to comment about these important proposals to ensure the city is protected from flooding in the future.
You can see the issues we raised at the City Council Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee along with the latest news here [link to news item Flood Protection Proposals,Thursday 1st December 2016]
Here is our letter to Councillor Bryan Lodge:
Re: Sheffield Flood Protection Proposals
Following the recent Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on the above topic, I would like to take this opportunity to further re-iterate our support for the strategic approach the Council is taking to flood protection of the city.
I mentioned a number of suggestions and requests in my presentation at the meeting that I hope the Council will consider further and I wanted to set these out more clearly here. They are as follows:
For the scheme to seriously apply ‘all the tools in the box’ to help protect the city. There are a range of ‘tools’ – hard engineering (concrete walls, dams), soft engineering (re-meandering areas, restoring natural floodplains) and natural flood risk management (restoring peatland, tree planting, re-wetting etc). We should be using all of these.
As an addition to the scheme, for the Council to apply for the natural flood management funds that have recently been announced by DEFRA.
To consider that soft engineering solutions can also be delivered relatively quickly alongside hard engineering projects. Natural flood risk management options take longer to be realised but have increased benefits in the long term and will be cheaper to maintain than hard engineering. We should invest in these now.
To make public how the Council models the cost/benefits of different proposals, from installation through to maintenance and end of life, and the cumulative benefits of each scheme over their life time vs their social and environmental impact.
We have just been successful in our Landscape Partnership project (£4mln) that has natural flood risk management as a strand within it. Yorkshire Water and the EA are partners in this scheme. We are already in contact with land managers, owners and farmers in this area in NW Sheffield – an area that covers much of the Upper Don catchment and is the focus of the Council’s proposals. Why not work with us?
It became clear at the Scrutiny Committee that a significant barrier would be needed in the Rivelin Valley in order to hold back the amount of water proposed for this scheme. I understood from the Council’s responses at the meeting that there would be some re-thinking about proposals in ancient woodlands. Obviously we do not support the use of nationally important natural assets of the city, such as ancient woodland and local wildlife sites, for flood storage. If these proposals are to be developed further, the Council must make a case that these are the last resort options and undertake a full Environmental Impact Assessment for the whole scheme.
The timeline for presentation of shortlisted proposals to Government in January seems extremely tight, given the amount of concern over the consultation. Presumably work is already underway within the Council, and must have been for some months, in order to be ready for this deadline. So can the Council share the shortlist it has been working on?
Finally, I would particular like to follow up on the recommendation made at the committee to take forward the idea of a ‘strategic flood protection partnership’ for Sheffield involving a number of different organisations from across the city and with the potential to link into the wider community. I would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss this idea further with you.
I look forward to hearing from you.