Pickering ‘Slowing the flow’ project complete

Aerial photo of Pickering in Yorkshire in flood taken on 5/8/2002An innovative and long awaited project to reduce the risk of flooding in Pickering is complete – in time for winter.

The Environment Agency is now making the finishing touches to a flood storage area in Newtondale, upstream of Pickering, which is the final piece in a range of measures to slow the flow of water from the North York Moors into Pickering Beck and subsequently down into the town.

‘Slowing the Flow’ partnership chairman, Jeremy Walker, said:

“Completion of the flood storage area is the final element in a new approach to flood management at Pickering, which will improve protection for 50 properties in the town. The flood storage area will temporarily hold a large volume of flood water that would otherwise rush down into the town and cause flooding. 

It has taken much effort to get to this point, which has only been possible through strong partnership working and with funding support from many sources – particularly Ryedale, North Yorkshire and Pickering Councils, the Environment Agency and Defra, as well as the Yorkshire Regional Flood and Coastal Committee.  We are very grateful for their support, and also to the residents of Pickering, for their patience with the associated additional traffic and disruption.”

Defra’s pilot ‘Slowing the Flow’ project has been led by Forest Research and closely supported by Forestry Commission England, the Environment Agency, the North York Moors National Park, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, Pickering Town Council, Sinnington Parish Council, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Durham University and the wider community. The partnership has taken an innovative approach, by working with the natural environment in order to reduce flood risk. This has included planting trees, constructing ‘woody debris dams’ in becks and streams, establishing no-burn buffer zones, and targeted blocking of moorland drains.

All of these measures are helping to hold water in the landscape and delay its passage downstream.  Work began in January 2014 on building the flood storage area to hold back 120,000 cubic metres of water at times of peak flow. While this won’t prevent all floods, it will significantly improve the standard of protection for Pickering and move the town from the previous 25% chance of flooding in any given year, to a 4% chance or less.

Pickering has a long history of floods, caused by the fact that Pickering Beck flows through a steep sided valley for much of its length, funnelling water from the hillsides down towards the town. The most recent major flood, which took place in 2007, saw 85 properties and the main A170 flooded, causing around £7m of damage.

The work undertaken by the ‘Slowing the Flow’ project will not prevent the most severe floods such as that in 2007, but will greatly reduce the frequency of floods in the town. Local residents are encouraged to find out about their flood risk, and to register for the Environment Agency’s free flood warning service. More information is available on www.gov.uk/floodsdestroy, or by calling Floodline on 0845 9881188.  More information about the project can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/slowingtheflow