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Over 20 natural features have been built to help bolster flood protection in the North East of England. The structures are part of a pioneering natural flood management scheme.

The new £2.1 million UK Government funded Weardale Natural Flood Management scheme, which includes a range of nature-based solutions such as storage areas, wooden leaky barriers and timber fences, could see a reduction in flood risk across 41km2 for communities including Lanehead, Wearhead, Westgate and Stanhope.

It also contains 150 hectares of restored peatland and will aim to create around 75 hectares of woodland, bringing a habitat boost to wildlife.

The Environment Agency is leading the project and working in partnership with Natural England, North Pennines AONB Partnership, the Forestry Commission and Durham County Council along with representation from Wear Catchment Partnerships as well as local farmers and landowners.

Kirsty Hardy, Environment Agency Project Manager, said: “Our innovative approach, which has included flood risk modelling and working with communities to understand the flood history and landscape, has helped us identify the locations that provide the greatest benefit to reduce flood risk.

“Landowners and farmers and their skills and local knowledge are integral to the project’s ongoing success and our commitment to all working together has ensured our vision is coming to life.

“Not only is this protecting local communities, but it’s also bringing so many positive benefits for climate regulation, wildlife, water quality, water resources and amenity.”

At Killhope Barm, 13 leaky dams have been built throughout the burn to restrict the flow of water and four timber fences have been constructed to slow the movement of water across the landscape. Four storage areas have also been built at Middlehope burn, to help hold back rain water during times of heavy rain.

MP Richard Holden commented: “The better our flood management systems, the better we can protect our towns and villages across Weardale from life-changing harm.

“I was really pleased to hear from local farmer Greg Dalton and Kirsty and the Environment Agency team. When it comes to natural flood management it seems to me it’s best to work with the landowner from the start. It was great to see that Greg’s ideas were taken on and implemented by Kirsty and the Agency.

“From what I have seen today natural flood management could change the way we manage floods and how the Environment Agency works with landowners to understand what works best on their land and for local towns and villages.”

The latest work follows a demonstrator site which was completed in August 2019 and which stored 400m3 of flood water to protect communities from the impact of Storm Ciara in February 2020.

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