Tree-planting project helped Yorkshire town miss winter floods


Click here for the project blog — Heather bales impeding gully flow

Tree planting and other natural approaches have prevented flooding at Pickering in North Yorkshire over Christmas, at a time when heavy rainfall caused devastating flooding across the region.

An analysis of the Slowing the Flow scheme published on Wednesday concludes that the measures reduced peak river flow by 15-20% at a time when 50mm of rain fell on sodden ground in 36 hours. The scheme was set up in 2009 after the town had suffered four serious floods in 10 years, with the flooding in 2007 estimated to have caused about £7m of damage.

The work included planting 40,000 trees, 300 “leaky” dams and the restoration of heather moorland, all intended to slow the flow of water into the river and reduce its peak height. A new flood storage area was also set aside in fields near Newtondale. The project cost the government £500,000, significantly less than a proposed flood wall in the town.

The report concludes that the scheme prevented flooding that would otherwise have occurred to homes and the town museum. The work supports the calls for a more natural approach to flood risk management that followed a series of serious floods in recent years.

Not a be-all and end-all, the fact remains that utilizing natural defenses can prevent a significant portion of flood events – and serve the public interest by diminishing the effects of extraordinary events.

That the plantings cost significantly less than measures proposed by a government doing their level best to spend less and less on public needs is praiseworthy. This also increases the odds of getting such projects past Tory beancounters.

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