New projects using nature to help reduce flood risk in Calderdale will soon get off the ground, thanks to a £112,000 funding boost from Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency.
Flooding is a significant ongoing risk in Calderdale due to its large areas of moorland, steep-sided valleys and the effects of climate change. With three major floods in just eight years, the impacts have been devastating.
The Council, the Environment Agency, other partner organisations and the community continue to do everything they can to minimise the risk and build resilience. Since the floods in 2012, they have been working together on the long-term Calderdale Flood Action Plan.
One part of the joint work is natural flood management (NFM), which has been making its mark in Calderdale since the major floods on Boxing Day 2015. It involves improving management of the landscape to help reduce flood risk, such as the development of ponds and ditches, planting trees and restoring moorland. One of the aims is to reduce the impact of heavy rain by slowing water run-off through the valley, meaning rivers and streams can cope better with extra rainwater and are less likely to overflow. NFM also has wider environmental benefits and a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
The Council and the Environment Agency have now invested £112,000 to fund four new NFM projects, using their joint £1 million NFM fund which was approved by the Calderdale Flood Partnership Board. The new projects will build on the great work done so far, alongside a range of other engineering- and community-based flood risk reduction and resilience measures.
Groups were invited to bid for a share of the funding to address NFM priorities in the Flood Action Plan, and the following were successful:
- A follow-up rust fungus trial to control the spread of Himalayan Balsam. This invasive non-native species leaves river banks bare and unstable, exposed to erosion when it dies back and can result in increased soil and plant material in rivers. It is hoped that the rust fungus will significantly reduce this year’s Himalayan Balsam population and infect new seedlings next spring. The work will be carried out by Calderdale Council on behalf of the Calder Invasive Non-native Species sub-group, at Gorpley Clough Local Nature Reserve.
- A study exploring the potential to extend clough woodland and NFM methods into wider areas of land to reduce flood risk. Part of the Landscapes for Water project, this work will build on the success of the ongoing £1.3 million West Yorkshire Combined Authority funded Wessenden and Calder NFM project at Hardcastle Crags and Gorpley Reservoir in Calderdale and Wessenden Valley in Kirklees. It will be undertaken by the National Trust.
- Botanical surveys and engagement with landowners on around 100 key sites, to identify new places that are suitable for tree planting and other NFM works. The Council will carry out the surveys and is looking for potential sites – please email NFM@calderdale.gov.uk with ideas.
- An assessment of blanket bog habitats to make recommendations to improve resilience to wildfires and climate change. This work will be led by Moors for the Future and will focus on the current state of the moorland, mapping fire risks and planning how to fight fires, looking at means of access and habitat management.
Cllr Scott Patient, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said:
“Sadly we live with the ever-present threat of flooding in Calderdale, and these events are increasing in frequency and severity due to the consequences of catastrophic climate change. This investment shows our commitment to do all we can to reduce that risk of flooding across all our communities.
“Natural flood management is making a vital contribution in the borough, and continues to be an important part of the whole package of flood risk reduction and resilience measures alongside hard engineering works. We are delighted to support more of these enterprising natural methods, and continue to be extremely grateful to the many community volunteers who are helping to deliver these schemes.”
Jo Arnold, senior flood risk advisor working in Calderdale for the Environment Agency, said:
“Natural flood management is an important part of our plan to protect communities from flood risk, both locally and nationally, and there are some great examples of how it is being used in the Calder Valley. We are keen to support our partners and individuals developing NFM initiatives, alongside flood schemes based on traditional engineering, which are sustainable and also have an added benefit of creating habitat for wildlife.”
In recent years, Calderdale Council and the Environment Agency have offered grants to landowners to introduce NFM measures on their land. As of May 2020, 12 of these schemes have been completed and another nine are in progress. The work includes leaky dams (blocking streams or dry gullies with natural materials to slow water down and encourage it to soak into the ground); planting trees and hedges (they can reduce flooding by increasing soil’s ability to absorb water during heavy rainfall); attenuation ponds (which fill in times of heavy rain, store water temporarily and release it slowly) and cross-contour bunds which slow down and divert water flowing over fields.
As we move into summer, the risk of flash flooding from torrential downpours and thunderstorms increases. Ensure you are protected and resilient:
- Sign up to the Environment Agency flood warning service at gov.uk/sign-up-for-flood-warnings(external link)and the Met Office weather warning service at www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/guides/warnings(external link) and familiarise yourself with the risks in your local area. Are there streams, culverts, roads and drains which are vulnerable to downpours?
- If you live in an area specifically at risk of flash flooding, you should write a personal flood plan and consider investing in property-level protection.
- If you have flood resilience measures such as a flood door or barrier at your property, now is the ideal time to make sure you know where everything is, check them for defects, practise installing them and test them if possible, to make sure they work and to save time during a flood.
Go to www.eyeoncalderdale.com(external link) for more information on the measures to reduce flood risk and increase resilience in Calderdale, and for tips on how to be prepared for flooding.