Foss Barrier boosted to withstand record river levels seen in last year’s devastating floods

Secretary of State for Environment Andrea Leadsom pictured by the Foss Barrier, York...26th September 2016..Picture by Simon Hulme
Secretary of State for Environment Andrea Leadsom pictured by the Foss Barrier, York...26th September 2016..Picture by Simon Hulme
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A MAJOR flood barrier will now be able to deal with an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of water in less than a minute after having its capacity boosted by new pumps.

The Foss Barrier is being enhanced as part of a £17m upgrade to York’s flood defences, following the devastating effects of last year’s deluge.

A Chinook helicopter delivers materials to repair to the flood defence systems in York, North Yorkshire, December 28 2015. The flood gate which protects the city had to be raised after the pumping station was flooded. See Ross Parry story RPYFLOOD; Flood-stricken residents across the North of England have an anxious wait as flood levels are expected to keep rising throughout the night. Brave locals watched on outside their homes as soldiers waded into the water to rescue residents in York, North Yorks. The Foss flood barrier - which protects the city from flooding - was reportedly left open because engineers feared that the defence would fail if it was left in the down position. York was in deadlock today with over 30 road closures as 200 soldiers were deployed in various parts of the city. Pic: Ross Parry

A Chinook helicopter delivers materials to repair to the flood defence systems in York, North Yorkshire, December 28 2015. The flood gate which protects the city had to be raised after the pumping station was flooded. See Ross Parry story RPYFLOOD; Flood-stricken residents across the North of England have an anxious wait as flood levels are expected to keep rising throughout the night. Brave locals watched on outside their homes as soldiers waded into the water to rescue residents in York, North Yorks. The Foss flood barrier - which protects the city from flooding - was reportedly left open because engineers feared that the defence would fail if it was left in the down position. York was in deadlock today with over 30 road closures as 200 soldiers were deployed in various parts of the city. Pic: Ross Parry

The Government said the defences will mean York is protected should rivers rise to the record levels seen last winter.

The city was one of the worst hit areas of the region in the floods caused by Storm Eva, along with Leeds, Tadcaster and parts of the Calder Valley.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom visited the Foss Barrier yesterday to see the work going on.

She said: “The flooding of the Foss Barrier became a focal point of last winter’s devastating floods and I am delighted to see it strengthened ahead of this winter, with £17m invested, so our great city of York is better protected than ever before. Of course we can’t stop the rain falling and rivers rising, but I want people to be assured we are doing everything we can to keep our communities as safe as possible.

“That’s why we’re investing £400m in flood defence schemes across Yorkshire, up until 2021,” Eight new pumps are being installed which will increase its capacity by 66 per cent.

During the Boxing Day floods a decision was taken to raise the barrier amid concerns that the control room would flood and its pumps would stop working causing even bigger problems.

The Foss Barrier, built in 1987, is usually brought down to stop the River Ouse from flowing back up the River Foss. However the levels of the Ouse got so high that the control room was being inundated with water, and the eight pumps were in danger of failing. That would have meant any water flowing down the River Foss would have backed up behind it and created a reservoir behind the Foss barrier. An investigation into the decision found that raising the barrier had avoided more flooding overall, despite areas near it which are normally protected being affected.

Across the city 250 people were evacuated from their homes during the floods. Council-run centres provided temporary accommodation for 115 people at the height of the crisis. Environment Agency chairman, Emma Howard Boyd also visited the Foss Barrier to see the first of eight new pumps being installed.

The government has said it will also spend £45m on improving flood defences in York over the next 5 years - to better protect over 2,000 properties.

She said: “I visited Yorkshire last year and saw the terrible impact of the floods, and the anxiety placed on communities.

The new, high capacity pumps at the Foss Barrier will help to better protect and reassure the people of York this winter and we have further plans to improve the defences throughout the city over the next five years.”

The pair also visited Leeds today to see the development of a new flood defence scheme in the city, which will see for the first time in the UK the introduction of moveable weirs. These can be lowered in flood conditions to reduce river levels and the threat of river flooding.

The River Aire flood alleviation scheme will better protect more than 200 homes and businesses once completed in May next year. It will also reduce the likelihood of flood disruption to more than 3,000 city centre apartments. The government has invested £33m towards the scheme, which started last year.

Leeds has also been allocated an additional £35m up to 2021 towards the cost of another project to further protect Leeds upstream from the current scheme.

Hull Council’s cabinet have given the go-ahead for work to purchase land alongside Holderness Drain to reduce the risk of flooding to 1,750 properties in the east of the city. The authority said this would allow the potential development of a nature reserve and flood storage scheme providing flood risk protection to Bransholme and East Hull.