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Slowing the Flow at Pickering is a Defra pilot project exploring how natural measures can help manage flooding. It features a number of innovative, cost effective techniques for storing more water in the landscape and reducing its rate of flow downstream.
Slowing the Flow at Pickering is exploring a new approach to flood management. Situated in North Yorkshire, England – across the catchments of Pickering Beck and the River Seven – the project is about working with nature to try and store more water in the landscape and slow its passage downstream. Whilst this will not prevent all flooding, it is expected to reduce the frequency of future floods in the towns of Pickering and Sinnington, as well as deliver a range of other benefits to the local environment and community.
Location: Pickering, North Yorkshire, England
Date of completion: Ongoing/long-term demonstration study
Client: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Main Contractor: Forest Research
Project manager: The Slowing The Flow Partnership Board
Challenge summary: Pitt review recommendation 2007: deliver flood risk management involving greater work with natural processes
Challenge solution: catchment management approach incorporating natural measures and traditional flood storage
Sir Michael Pitt's review of the devastating UK floods of 2007 made 92 recommendations for improving flood risk management, including specific measures to implement partnership approaches and better "working with nature" processes. In response, Defra commissioned three pilot schemes at Holnicote, Kinder Scout and Pickering. The Pickering project was initiated in April 2009 with a clear brief to demonstrate how the integrated application of a range of land management interventions can help reduce flood risk at the catchment scale, as well as provide wider multiple benefits for local communities.
The town of Pickering is situated in North Yorkshire, England. Pickering Beck flows through the town, fed from the North Yorkshire Moors in the higher ground to the north. Adjacent to the Pickering Beck catchment is that of the River Seven, which flows through the town of Sinnington.
Pickering and Sinnington both have long standing issues with flooding. Pickering flooded four times between 1999 and 2007, the last of which caused around £7m damage to homes and businesses. Proposals were made for a flood alleviation capital scheme in the town, but cost-benefit analysis showed plans to be unaffordable when set against national cost-benefit thresholds and other priorities.
Instead, a catchment level land management approach was devised to deliver improved flood protection through "working with nature" processes. A crucial element of the approach was to better understand how floods are generated in a catchment and how land use and management affects the speed and volume of flood flows (four principal land use types were identified in the Pickering catchment – forest, arable, heather moorland and improved grassland).
Slowing the Flow at Pickering is a partnership project. It is led by Forest Research, closely supported by Forestry Commission England, The Environment Agency, The North York Moors National Park Authority, Durham University, Natural England, Local Authorities and the wider community. The lead funder is Defra. Representatives of all partner organisations formed the Slowing the Flow Partnership Board.
At the core of the whole-catchment approach at Pickering is the implementation and evaluation of a number of land management interventions to help slow down and reduce flood flows. By attenuating flow upstream, water flow can pass through Pickering within an identified safe conveyance level, alleviating pressure at major pinch points such as at the Ropery Bridge. Across the scheme, most intervention measures were targeted at the Pickering Beck catchment though some extend into the neighbouring River Seven catchment, helping to manage flood risk to Sinnington.
The solution for the site involved two main strands – natural catchment measures and traditional floodplain storage.
The natural catchment measures strand of the project was led by the Forestry Commission. Through detailed "opportunity mapping" by Forest Research and hydrological/hydraulic modelling by the University of Durham, a number of locations were identified within both the Pickering and Seven catchments which could deliver positive impact by reconnecting the water course with its flood plain, and consequently slow the flow of water downstream. The range of interventions applied include:
The Environment Agency led the more traditional flood storage approach. After extensive investigation, a suitable site was found for construction of a bund (a large raised reservoir) 2km upstream from Pickering village.
Designed by Arup, the reservoir has a capacity of 120,000m3 and features 1km of embankment split into two sections: a spillway 2m above natural ground level and a lateral embankment protecting the adjacent North York Moors railway. A concrete control structure positioned in the centre of the reservoir restricts the flow of water downstream to Pickering to the target safe conveyance rate of 14.5m3/s.
Outcomes and benefits of the Slowing the Flow project include:
Slowing the Flow at Pickering featured at ICE Flooding 2016. Tom Nisbet, Head of Physical Environment Research at Forest Research, presented an in depth view of the project, covering:
Further details and updates on the continuing research at the site are available at www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/slowingtheflow.
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