Project reduces flooding risk and boosts environment in West Yorkshire

A major project, using innovative, ‘natural’ measures which protect the environment, improve biodiversity and boost wildlife, has also reduced flood risk to 865 homes and 53 businesses in West Yorkshire.

A major project, using innovative, ‘natural’ measures which protect the environment, improve biodiversity and boost wildlife, has also reduced flood risk to 865 homes and 53 businesses in West Yorkshire. 

The two-year £388,000 Growing Resilience Natural Flood Management (NFM) Upper Aire project has also created 145 hectares of high-quality green infrastructure. The project, led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, aims to reduce dangerous flooding on a stretch of the river between Keighley, Steeton, Skipton and Malham. It has been funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority via the Leeds City Region Growth Deal.  

NFM work supports conventional flood management activities and includes hedge and tree-planting, farmland aeration and the creation of ‘leaky’ dams, ponds, and bunds. Hundreds of these individual interventions are delivered across a large area. The aim is to store water in the landscape or in the soil via aeration.  

Tree and hedge planting aims to intercept rainfall, preventing or slowing its arrival at the river. Many of the measures are designed to slow the rate at which water runs off the land. Landowners are fully consulted and engaged in the work. 

 

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, commented:

“This Natural Flood Management project on the Upper Aire has reduced flood risk and delivered many environmental benefits for the area. It is also a notable example of partnership working and teams from the Combined Authority have worked effectively with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and their local partners. 

“The successful NFM scheme in the Calder and Colne Valleys has also been delivered on the same basis by the National Trust.”  

Suzie Knight from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said: “This has been a fantastic project and we are very proud of the work that has been delivered, which not only benefits flood alleviation and wildlife habitat, but also the local communities.    

“Thanks to the hard work of the project team, our partners, our landowners, our contractors and our volunteers, we have achieved above and beyond the original intended outputs of the project. 

We would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to our funders the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for not only funding the project, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal, but also for the ongoing support of their project team.” 

NFM interventions slow the flow of water in the uplands before it hits major urban areas downstream, and this project within the Upper Aire catchment will help to reduce pressure on phase one and two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation scheme.  

This Growing Resilience Natural Flood Management Project in the Upper Aire, is the sister project to one successfully led by The National Trust in the Colne and Calder valleys, also funded by the Combined Authority via the Leeds City Region Growth deal and recently successfully completed. 

Thousands of properties in the Calder Valley area were severely affected when the River Calder flooded in 2015, Boxing Day. The NFM work in this area was delivered in partnership with the National Trust. Interventions were put in place at Hardcastle Crags in Hebden Bridge, as well as the Colne catchment, which includes the Wessenden Valley and the Marsden Moor area. Both are cared for by the National Trust. 

The scheme also includes Gorpley Reservoir, a Yorkshire Water site which is looked after by the Woodland Trust, and forms part of the White Rose Forest. 

Over two years, 151 hectares (370 acres) of new woodland have been planted and 85 hectares (210 acres) of peat bogs, heath, and moor grass or molinia have been restored.  

The total investment in the Colne/Calder Valley NFM scheme and Growing Resilience Natural Flood Management (NFM) Upper Aire project was £1.7m.  

Part of the Natural Flood Management work is carried out by groups of committed volunteers. The interventions will either restore or mimic the natural functions of rivers, floodplains, and the wider catchment. The aim is to store water in the landscape, either temporarily in or around the river, or in the soil via aeration. Tree and hedge planting aims to intercept rainfall, preventing or slowing its arrival at the river in the first place. Many of the measures are designed to slow the rate at which water runs off the land into rivers. 

NFM interventions including leaky dams, ponds, bunds, aeration, and tree, and hedge planting all play a part in wider catchment benefits.  

This Growing Resilience Natural Flood Management (NFM) Upper Aire scheme has now been completed and a project closure report has been approved by the Combined Authority.