YP Letters: Pickering, the town that leads in treating the causes – and not symptoms – of floods

Prince Charles during a visit to the 'Slowing the Flow' project in Pickering.
Prince Charles during a visit to the 'Slowing the Flow' project in Pickering.
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From: Mike Potter, Pickering.

The scenic tourist town of Pickering is no longer famous for just its railway and church wall paintings. The pioneering ‘Slowing the Flow’ (STF) flood scheme also continues to attract keen interest.

The scheme, completed in September 2015, combines Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures such as woody debris dams, riparian tree planting, moorland management and drain blocking in the upper catchment, with a 120,000m3 flood water storage bund (dam) 1.5 miles above the town, which treats the problem at its source, rather than with intrusive and expensive walls at locations where damaging floods occur.

The scheme came about as a result of collaboration between the local community and open-minded academics. If carefully planned and modelled, similar cost-effective measures to ‘Slow the Flow’ of flood water could be quickly implemented countrywide at a fraction of the cost of commonly used flood walls.

After successfully protecting Pickering and the adjacent River Seven catchment during the Boxing Day 2015 floods, the scheme attracted a huge amount of interest from media, Flood Risk Management (FRM) authorities and other flood-hit communities.

Prince Charles also made a personal request to visit between official engagements. Chairman of the EFRA select committee, Neil Parish MP, and chief scientific adviser to its flood inquiry, Prof Paul Quinn, were the latest to visit, as they look to advise Government on how to approach the problem of more frequent and damaging floods as a result of climate change.

Academics from as far afield as Australia, Japan and Switzerland have also beaten a path to the town. Importantly, the lessons learned from this pilot project are being used to inform other flood hit communities across Yorkshire and beyond. Already, NFM measures have been planned for the badly hit Calder Valley.

Hopefully, Pickering’s influence at the highest level will result in a fresh approach to FRM policy and delivery, which will treat the causes, rather than the symptoms, and will enable cost-effective measures and sustainable land management where they are most appropriate – with a whole catchment approach, rather than simply trying to contain floodwater where it causes the damage.

Only last week, the Pickering scheme won both the Vision and Sustainability prize and the overall prize at the Research Innovation Sustainability & Enterprise (RISE) awards of the Leeds Sustainability Institute, part of Leeds Beckett University.