£41m Calderdale village flood defences officially opened but they ‘will not remove risk of floods altogether’
Mytholmroyd’s new flood defence scheme, which improves protection for more than 400 homes and businesses, was officially opened after three years of construction work.
Funding for the project was secured after the devastating floods caused by Storm Eva on Boxing Day in 2015, when 2,781 homes and 1,008 businesses were affected throughout Calderdale.
Mytholmroyd experienced its highest ever recorded flood during the storm and around 300 properties, 70 businesses, a church and two schools were damaged.
Engineers bolstered flood walls, relocated the Caldene Bridge, widened the River Calder channel at two locations and flood proofed dozens of buildings during the project, which was overseen by the Environment Agency and Calderdale Council.
Adrian Gill, the Environment Agency’s area flood risk manager, said the village was at risk of flooding once every five years, but that has now dropped to one in every 50.
He said: “I think we have created a step change in the flood risk, but that doesn’t remove the risk.
“It doesn’t mean to say that it (Mytholmroyd) will not flood again in the future, or that people don’t need to think about it.
“People still need to sign up to our flood warning service, still need to understand that they’re at risk and still need to take all the necessary steps to reduce any potential impact on themselves or family members.”
He added: “We’ve seen major floods in 2012 ,2015 and 2020, and with climate change that flooding was only going to get more frequent and more severe.
“You can see how the viability of the centre of a place like Mytholmroyd really starts to get called into question if the businesses can’t survive and the schools can’t continue to function. A scheme for somewhere like Mytholmroyd is really essential to reduce that flood risk and to buy people time to further adapt and improve the resilience.”
Funding for the £41m scheme was provided by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the European Structural Investment Fund and the Department of Education.
With the increasing impact of climate change, it is impossible to completely stop the risk of flooding, particularly in the Calder Valley due to the geography of the area the EA said.
While the scheme won’t prevent the frequency of floods or their severity, it will give residents a better standard of protection and give valuable time to prepare for the risk of flooding.
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “I first visited Mytholmroyd in the aftermath of Boxing Day 2015 and I am delighted this scheme has been conceived, designed and built since then. It provides better protection for the village and will also create valuable time for people to prepare when flooding is about to happen.
“Climate change is increasing the frequency and the severity of floods everywhere and everyone needs to adapt. The combination of engineered and natural approaches to flood risk here should inspire future projects all over the country.
“Thank you to local residents, businesses and commuters for their patience and cooperation while the construction of this complex project has been carried out.”
The Environment Agency has worked in partnership with Calderdale Council and alongside members of Calderdale Partnership Board to provide Mytholmroyd with the best possible flood protection. Design and construction was completed by VBA Joint Venture.
Councillor Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Resilience, said: “The completion of the Flood Alleviation Scheme is a landmark moment for the entire Mytholmroyd community. Bringing greater protection to residents and businesses is a long-standing priority for the Council and our partner organisations, as we continue to work together to increase flood resilience and tackle the climate emergency.
“The increased risk of flooding is sadly one of the devastating impacts of climate change that we are living with across the borough due to our unique landscape.
“The complex Mytholmroyd scheme has been a challenging part of the range of measures to reduce flood risk throughout Calderdale, but one that we’ve been proud to be involved in, because of what it means to the local community to have extra protection.
“Thank you to all the organisations and funders who have made this happen, and to the people of Mytholmroyd for their patience.”
The completed scheme includes the construction of new, raised and improved flood walls, the relocation of Caldene Bridge, widening of the river channel at two key locations and flood proofing of many buildings next to the River Calder and Cragg Brook.
The Mytholmroyd FAS was part of the Environment Agency’s previous six-year programme of capital flood defence schemes, which has successfully protected more than 314,000 homes since 2015.
The project team is working with the Department for Education to look at installing property flood resilience measures to Burnley Road Academy which will be in addition to the completed flood defence works to help better protect the school and reduce the disruption to school children, parents and teachers from future flooding.
Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker said: "“I am incredibly delighted that the flood alleviation scheme has now been completed. I would like to thank the Environment Agency for co-ordinating this scheme and would also like to thank residents in the area for their patience over the duration of works.
"The village has been hit with severe flooding in the past, and it is hoped that the completed work will now provide adequate protection from severe weather conditions in the future.”