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Agenda item

Protecting Sheffield from Flooding - Programme Update

Report of the Director of City Centre Development



The Committee received a report of the Director of City Centre Development providing an update on the Protecting Sheffield from Flooding investment programme.  The report set out details of the progress of the various schemes being implemented in the City, in partnership with the Environment Agency, which would invest in the City’s flood and drainage infrastructure, and aim to protect communities, as well as supporting commercial and housing growth in Sheffield’s main river valleys.




In attendance for this item were Jim Fletcher (City Council Food and Water Manager), David Brown (City Council Principal Project Manager, Major Projects), James Mead and Victoria Saynor (Environment Agency), Liz Ballard (Chief Executive, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust) and Nalin Seneviratne (Director of City Centre Development).




Prior to the consideration of the report, the Committee received a number of questions from members of the public, as follows:-




Jude Lamb




As you are aware, there is a very high level of opposition to the proposal for a flood storage area to be located at the Roscoe site at Rivelin.  The scheme would destroy a well-loved and well-used natural beauty spot, rich in heritage and wildlife.  We understand that this flood storage area is now described as a last resort, dependent on negotiations with Yorkshire Water.  Please can you explain, besides Yorkshire Water and the flood storage dam, what other options are being explored for the Rivelin/Loxley part of the river system, and what comparative impact assessments were made across the original 16 possible flood storage areas that led to such an unpopular option still being on the table at such a late stage in the process.




The Chair stated that a response would be provided as part of information to be reported in connection with the report.




Nigel Slack




Many concerns have been expressed about the potential damage that these proposals may cause to internationally significant industrial heritage assets in the Upper Don valleys, including Historic England, as well as local groups, yet heritage is not mentioned in this report.  Can the Council explain who will be part of the Natural Flood Management Working Party, and whether, if they are not already part of this Working Group, they will be consulting with organisations like the South Yorkshire Industrial Trust and the Waterway Group on what they suggest would be multi-million pound damage to heritage assets in these areas of intrusive flood management.




The Chair stated that a response would be provided as part of information to be reported in connection with the report.




Trevor Bagshaw




Bradfield Parish Council is concerned that there has been no ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, and want to know about the proposals affecting Oughtibridge, particularly those which touch on the Parish Council’s property - Coronation Park.  This is urgent as the Parish Council is considering undertaking works to the Park and its environment.




The Chair stated that a response would be provided as part of information to be reported in connection with the report.




Brian Holmshaw




(a)        At least two of these flood protection methods result in the destruction of significant industrial archaeology, including a weir that is over 300 years old.  What discussions has there been with relevant local industrial archaeological organisations – South Yorkshire Industrial History Society, South Yorkshire Archaeology Service and Wortley Top Forge – to mitigate damage to existing archaeology, both in and around the waterways?




(b)        In December 2016, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust asked for full environmental impact assessments at the places where major structural changes are planned.  Have any been made and where can we see them?




(c)        How many organisations are part of the stakeholder group that the City Council and Environment Agency are working with, and who are they?




The Chair stated that a response would be provided as part of information to be reported in connection with the report.




Graham Appleby (Submitted prior to meeting, and raised in his absence)




If the City Council has designs on building homes and businesses in the Don Valley flood plain to create an estimated income of some £80 million, has consideration been given to building ‘flood proof’ buildings?  In areas that flood around the world, buildings are often raised above the level of any flood water.  This approach may help reduce the need for such drastic flood retention schemes as are being planned.




The Chair stated that a response would be provided as part of information to be reported in connection with the report.




Liz Ballard, attending on behalf of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, referred to the Trust’s request at the Scrutiny Committee meeting on 30th November, 2016, for a strategic partnership to be formed to work with the Council and the Environment Agency, to add value and inform the ‘Protecting Sheffield from Flooding’ programme.  She stated that, unfortunately, there has only been one ‘inaugural’ meeting in May 2017, with no future meetings  planned.  Ms Ballard provided an update in terms of the work undertaken by the Trust, which had included applying for additional funds, albeit unsuccessfully, to support natural flood risk management projects in Sheffield, to compliment the Council’s proposals.  The Trust had also been exploring the feasibility of Natural Flood Management (NFM) delivery in west of Sheffield (Upper Don catchment), in collaboration with the Environment Agency, but had struggled to secure the data from Arup Associates to inform this process, but once this data had been received, with the assistance of the Environment Agency, the Trust found that when ground truthing some potential intervention sites, with Yorkshire Water and Sheffield Hallam University, the modelling did not relate to reality on the ground.  The Trust had also had a team visiting a wide range of other locations in the area, with a view to assessing potential NFM project locations with landowners/farmers and during these visits, they had identified that many sites currently under the ownership of the Council already had an important role in containing and slowing water through their low intensity agricultural habitats.  Ms Ballard stated that the Trust requested the Council to consider assessing and recognising the existence of NFM services offered by the Council’s farmed estate and strongly recommended that more work was undertaken to determine exactly what NFM currently exists and the gains that could be made in the catchment to the west of Sheffield.




Ms Ballard stated that the Trust had invested considerable effort in NFM on the Rother, between Sheffield and Rotherham, and again, strongly urged the Council to ensure that ‘Protecting Sheffield from Flooding’ does not result in moving the problem to Rotherham.  It was suggested that a wider catchment approach was needed, and the Trust was already looking at a number of options, with the Environment Agency, to improve flood storage on site between the two urban areas.  One example included recent investment in improvements at Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve, with further work planned to assess whether this site could hold more water in the future.  In terms of Rivelin Roscoe, the Trust had met with the Rivelin Valley Conservation Group to look at the proposed scheme and landscape drawing, and Ms Ballard re-iterated her concerns with regard to the proposed height of the barrier or dam-like structure.




Jim Fletcher referred to the report, indicating that whilst the Lower Don Valley flood defence scheme was scheduled to be fully completed in January 2018, the Upper Don Valley and Sheaf catchment flood alleviation schemes had proved very challenging.  Although the cost of the schemes was significant, it was hoped that, by adopting a phased approach, and working on funding packages in respect of each phase, the necessary funding would be secured to finance the full schemes and in time, achieve a protection standard equivalent to the 2007 floods. There had been issues relating to funding the schemes that have prolonged the current early stage of scheme development. However, progress had continued in moving from the scoping/concept stage; appraising the short list of options announced earlier in the year, and moving to a preferred options stage.   Mr Fletcher made specific reference to the Sheffield Natural Flood Management Working Group, which had been established by the Council and the Environment Agency, with relevant Trusts and organisations, details of which would be provided to Members.  Those preferred catchment-wide options, including “slowing the flow” measures, would provide a high quality flood protection standard and system, both for Sheffield and downstream locations.




James Mead (Environment Agency) stated that the Agency had worked with a number of partners involved in peatland restoration in an effort to further understand the relationship between peatland restoration and flood risk, as well as other benefits for water that can potentially be achieved.  Whilst moorland restoration could reduce runoff at a local scale, it remains difficult to demonstrate significant change at the catchment scale.  Mr Mead stated that upland land management measures should be seen as one part of an integrated approach to flood risk management. They need to be complemented by other management options on floodplains downstream, hard engineering solutions, and decisions which steer development away from vulnerable sites.  Whilst there remains much debate about the role of land management in mitigating flooding, what is in no doubt is that the support of land owners and the local community is critical to their success.




In terms of the responses to the questions raised by members of the public, it was stated that, with regard to the options being explored for the Rivelin/Loxley part of the river system, the Environment Agency was working closely with Yorkshire Water in terms of utilising compensation reservoirs above the City to store flood water.  In respect of the impact of the proposals on heritage, it was reported that Historic England had been involved in the consultation process, and had visited all the sites involved, being informed of all the partnership’s options.  Historic England had raised some concerns with regard to the options, and it was planned that further consultation would be held with that Organisation, and other key stakeholders, when more detailed proposals had been formulated.  With regard to the concerns expressed by Bradfield Parish Council, it was stated that the Coronation Park flood storage area had been discounted in the options short list announced earlier in the year.  In terms of the works on sites of archaeological interest, the partnership would ensure that appropriate liaison was held with Historic England in respect of such works.




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·             Whilst a number of key stakeholders, including friends groups and environmental groups, had been consulted on all flood protection options at the early outline concept stage in 2016, more detailed consultation would be held with such groups in terms of the specific design of the schemes.  As part of the public consultation, a range of options had been discussed, with a shortlist being drafted at the end of the consultation period.  Consideration had also been given to funding, as part of the consultation.  It was agreed that communication should continue with stakeholder groups outside specific consultation stages. 




·             There was a considerable level of disappointment in the fact that the funds needed to cover the full cost of the Upper Don and Sheaf catchment schemes had not been secured.  The partnership would continue to work with the Government in order to secure the funds to finance the full schemes, but, in the meantime, the Council planned to deliver the schemes in phases over a five-year plus period as and when funding packages became available.  Although the schemes qualified for £22.5 million of Defra flood grant aid, subject to the approval of business cases by the Environment Agency, such funding had to be matched, with evidence provided to this effect.  The original plan had been to undertake the schemes in full, over a five-year period but, due to funding issues, the Environment Agency had suggested that the project be delivered in phases, with each phase qualifying for grant funding.  The partnership had applied for DCLG Housing Infrastructure Funding of £10 million, and had secured £4 million at outline stage, with an opportunity to secure further funds from the Sheffield City Region, in connection with supporting potential for economic growth in the Upper Don area. 




·             All the schemes had been registered on the Government’s National Flood Programme, with a percentage of funding being indicatively allocated for each individual scheme. 




·             Undertaking NFM works in the Rivelin and Loxley catchments were not easy options as it involved working with numerous organisations and landowners, which had different interests and views.  The Environment Agency outlined that there had been positive developments in terms of the reservoir at Calderdale in North/West Yorkshire, and it was hoped that progress could be made in terms of NFM in Loxley.  If NFM measures could be progressed in terms of Loxley and Rivelin, and were successful, this may reduce the size of other storage options required in these areas. 




·             When looking at all the possible options in terms of NFM, the partnership had tried to look into all relevant issues, including economic, technical, heritage, sociological and arboricultural issues. 




·             In terms of the risks of flooding in respect of underground culverted watercourses in the City, an appraisal had been undertaken in respect of 48 such watercourses City-wide. Engineering consultants had identified nine culverts that presented the highest risk of collapse and flooding to surrounding communities, and the remaining 39 were not deemed as high risk, therefore would not qualify for grant-funding.




·             It had not been possible to highlight all the options in terms of NFM on the map appended to the report on the basis that there was simply not enough room to do so.  Officers would be able to provide Members with information which demonstrated those geographical areas which the partnership had looked at. 




·             In terms of a timetable in respect of the works, details would be published when works were due to commence in respect of the different phases. 




·             Whilst the issue of heather burning had been raised with the Environment Agency, it was not strictly within the partnership’s remit to make or suggest any changes to land management.  The Environment Agency, however, would be happy to advise or provide any assistance on, issues such as this.  The issue of heather burning came under the remit of Defra. 




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the information now reported, including the comments from the Environment Agency and Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, as well as the responses to the questions raised;




(b)      thanks Jim Fletcher, David Brown, James Mead, Victoria Saynor and Liz Ballard for attending the meeting and, where relevant, for responding to the questions raised; and




(c)      requests:-




(i)       that officers work with partners to look at the possibility of establishing a formally constituted Partnership Group, comprising representatives from all relevant agencies and organisations, as well as members of the public, to look at all aspects of flood management, including natural flood management and whole catchment approach;




(ii)      assurance, in going forward, post this consultation stage, that all relevant organisations are fully engaged in the development and decision-making process by the Council, on proposals, and that there is a cost benefit analysis of all the options, including hard engineering works and organic solutions; and




(iii)            that detailed designs of all the proposals under the programme be referred back to this Committee for comment, prior to submission to the Government.




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