Lessons learned will be applied to next Calderdale flood defence schemes say Environment Agency

Lessons learned from the flood alleviation scheme at Mytholmroyd will be taken forward to upcoming schemes at Hebden Bridge and Brighouse.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 9:40 am

As well as reflecting on the scheme, Environment Agency (EA) area lead Paul Swales also put to rest fears people living in other parts of Calderdale might have about its impact downstream.

Workshops with contractors and stakeholder meetings would play a part and feedback taken into account, including from the EA’s own teams, said Mr Swales.

The completed Mytholmroyd Flood Alleviation Scheme, opened two weeks ago by EA chair Emma Howard Boyd and Metro Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, took five years to complete but a project of that size, on a constrained site and requiring lengthy traffic management, would normally take twice as long from a standing start, he said.

New flood defences on the River Calder at Mytholmroyd. On the new, wider bridge, from the left, VBA senior project manager Chris Blenkarn, councillor Scott Patient, Environment Agency senior advisor Paul Swales and Katie Kimber from Mytholmroyd Flood Wardens.

Key were excellent relationships forged with partners, with a large section of the community and being able to keep the main Burnley Road open, the latter accomplished by creating a chicane on the village’s fire station forecourt, said Mr Swales.

Serious flooding in February 2020, the pandemic and water main bursts were among challenges which had to be worked through.

Also important were continuity of staff, appreciated by the public, and a highly visible information centre where people could talk to staff, look at modelling and ask questions, he said.

Managing expectations was also a factor – a project can reduce but not remove the risk completely.

“Overall it was a challenging project to deliver in a short time, but one we are proud of,” said Mr Swales.

The next major scheme, in Hebden Bridge, will begin next summer, also with schemes to specifically address concerns at Stubbing Holme Road and Erringden Hillside.

Also starting – next February – is a scheme to repair defences at Brighouse, which will addresses flooding from Clifton Beck with a proposed attenuation basin in Wellholme Park, along with other natural flood management (NFM) and environmental features on tributaries and the Red Beck.

At earlier stages of development are schemes for Walsden and Sowerby Bridge, and several more localised schemes.

Coun Regan Dickenson (Con, Rastrick) and Coun Angie Gallagher (Lab, Elland) were both concerned the completed upper Calder Valley schemes like Mytholmroyd might push more water downstream to the lower valley.

Mr Swales said there was a legal duty when building flood defence schemes not to increased risk to others. For example, the Mytholmroyd scheme could not be completed until schemes to mitigate risk at Brearley and Luddenden Foot had been finished.

In terms of risk of knock-on effect, Mr Swales said: “If all defences are in place, none. We cannot increase risk for others.”

That was with the caveat that no scheme in itself could guarantee to remove the risk of flooding totally.

A catchment wide approach was being taken in Calderdale, as well as physical elements such as widening channels and raising walls elements include using natural flood management, storage reservoirs and personal resilience householders who might be affected, he said.

Calderdale Council’s Flood Scrutiny Panel, which acts as a watchdog on the full Calderdale Flood Recovery and Resilience Programme Board, whose members include the council, the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water, was debating the issues.

* Support your Halifax Courier by becoming a digital subscriber. You will see 70 per cent fewer ads on stories, meaning faster load times and an overall enhanced user experience. Click here to subscribe