FLOOD defences which would protect Sheffield’s Wicker area are to be downgraded due to budget cuts and because the plans could increase the risk of flooding further upstream on the River Don.
The council admits the downgraded plans would not prevent a repeat of the problems seen on the Wicker in the 2007 floods, when a 68-year-old man died after being swept away when getting out of his car on the street.
The 2007 flood was classified as a one-in-150-year event and the original proposals by Sheffield Council and the Environment Agency, which would have cost several million pounds, aimed to prevent a one-in-200-year flood.
These plans involved removing derelict buildings alongside the Don and closing Nursery Street. The area would have been excavated and a park created on terraced levels down to the river. Nursery Street would have been narrowed and pedestrianised - and its level raised by several feet.
But council chiefs say only £500,000 is now available for flood defences so are instead proposing ‘interim measures’ - using a wall of concrete bollards on Nursery Street - which would only protect against a flood categorised as a one-in-100-year event and which would have been overwhelmed in 2007.
A park will still be created under the downgraded plans but only at one third of the original size.
Ellie Bennett, operations manager for Wicker Pharmacy and a member of the Wicker Forum traders’ group, said: “The original plans provided reassurance that locals would not have to relive the 2007 flood.
“Now, the plans include motorway-style concrete bollards on Nursery Street and will not be high enough to prevent a flood similar to 2007. We’re worried it will affect our ability to get insurance or planning permission for development schemes in the area.
“Wicker Forum members are extremely disappointed at the dilution of the plans. Concrete would be extremely ugly and it seems unlikely that they actually would be temporary considering the current economic climate.”
Sheffield Council said translucent plastic material was considered for the wall but there were concerns about how it would be maintained.
An alternative, of metal cages filled with stones but planted with flowers in the middle - suggested by the traders - was opposed by utility companies because they would have to move them to maintain underground services.
A third option of a brick wall would cost an additional £140,000, according to the council, but Wicker Forum members believe the council could have got a cheaper quote.
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment and transport, has agreed to meet Mrs Bennett and other traders to discuss their concerns.
He said: “The Nursery Street phase of flood defences is still in the design stages. The Environment Agency has determined that if a defence at Nursery Street was to be built up to the height required to protect against a one-in-200-year storm, it would increase flooding further upstream.
“The EA therefore has said it cannot approve such a defence and has advised that a one-in-100-year defence be installed, which would mitigate the impact upstream.”
A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “We are currently developing a flood protection scheme which is in the final stages of design and we will discuss further with the traders and others in the area. We plan to make a start on site over the next 12 months.”