Natural flood defences need bolstering to protect city

More needs to be done to create natural flood defences to protect Sheffield in the future, say environmentalists.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 10:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 11:18 am
Cleaning up after the floods around the Meadowhall Shopping Centre. Picture Scott Merrylees

The city’s defences, installed after the 2007 floods, held earlier this month and council chiefs said the £20m scheme saved the council a minimum of £30m, plus costs businesses and the economy would have suffered.

The water flow needs to be slowed down with trees, hedges, ponds and vegetation – many of which have been removed. With no natural barriers, the water rushes into rivers and floods from there.

Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust says more needs to be done with the natural infrastructure to stop water reaching the city.

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Roy Mosley, head of conservation and land management at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said: “Flooding is a complex issue but recent events clearly show hard defenses in isolation aren’t the solution.

“A holistic approach to flooding is needed involving natural flood management in the uplands, natural flood storage areas in the lowlands, sustainable urban drainage schemes and hard defenses.”

Sheffield Extinction Rebellion urged policymakers to listen to scientists.

Peter Gilbert from the group said: “Researchers at the Met Office have found that intense rainfall associated with severe flash flooding could become almost five times more frequent.

“The devastating floods that we are suffering here right now are what climate breakdown looks like. This is an emergency and politicians are failing to act.

“Those in power must urgently invest in restoring our degraded landscapes to health and slashing our region’s emissions to net zero by 2025 to avoid this climate crisis spiralling further out of control.

“And they must call the citizens’ assembly they have promised to give everyone – including those still bailing flood water out of their homes – a say over how these changes can be implemented fairly.”

Coun Mark Jones, cabinet member for environment and climate change, last week said Sheffield had to keep the water in the uplands and do a lot of planting to stop it going down the river to Rotherham and Doncaster.

He said: “Doncaster will need good flood defences but we need to help protect them and the more we can do to keep the water on the hills, the better.”

“We are looking at defences all along the Upper Don, in the Pennines, Strines and on moorlands.”