Pioneering project launched to reduce flood risk in Calder Valley

Left To Right: MP Holly Lynch (Halifax), Guy Thompson (White Rose Forest), Granville Davies (Yorkshire Water), MP Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley)
Left To Right: MP Holly Lynch (Halifax), Guy Thompson (White Rose Forest), Granville Davies (Yorkshire Water), MP Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley)

Calderdale is leading the way with a major scheme to reduce the risk of flooding in the valley.

The first of up to 200,000 trees have been planted as one of a series of measures planned that will help slow the flow of flood water in the Calder Valley.

Todmorden's Gorpley Reservoir is the site for the project which also includes initiatives such as blanket bog restoration and leaky dams all aimed at reducing the risk of flooding as well as enhancing the environment.

Granville Davies, Yorkshire Water’s Asset Strategy Manager, said: "It's great to see this project finally hitting the ground.

"Just over a year ago Treesponsibility and White Rose Forest came to us with the proposal for doing something different with this land around Gorpley Reservoir and we thought it would be a great thing to do.

"We announced the project back in February and since then we have been working with local groups, the Environment Agency, the council, the RSPB and the ramblers association to understand all of the various constraints to make sure that we get the design of what we want to do here right.

“Last weekend we saw once again how quickly the valley reacts to heavy rainfall and this work at Gorpley, alongside the change in approach to managing some of our reservoirs, will ultimately help to slow the flow of water down the valley. "

Calderdale MPs Holly Lynch and Craig Whittaker helped launch the project today (Friday), which will see around 10,000 trees planted in the area by local groups, residents and volunteers by the end of this year.

Holly Lynch, Shadow Flooding and Coastal Communities Minister and Halifax MP, said: "This is an issue that's close to my heart. It's been great to see Yorkshire Water really get into this flood management work and they've been working with different groups and volunteers to deliver some of these schemes .

"We really hope that we never see that level of devastation that we saw in 2015 on Boxing Day again but all of these smaller schemes all start to make a difference."

Over the next ten years the landscape surrounding Gorpley Reservoir, in Todmorden, will dramatically change with 200,000 trees, restored blanket bog and more, all helping to alleviate the risk of another devastating flood like the one seen on Boxing Day 2015.

Craig Whittaker, Calder Valley MP, said: "The great thing about what not just the Environment Agency but the whole of the agencies involved in the Calder Valley are doing is they are finally working together for a wider catchment plan. It's not just about building concrete defenses down in the lower valley but it's about doing things like this too, restoration of the peat and the bog and of course tree planting.
"We'll never stop flooding but if we can alleviate flooding, and particularly flooding like we had two years ago, then it's all worthwhile."

Alongside this project, Yorkshire Water has also revealed a trial to change how some of the reservoirs in Calderdale are managed this winter.

The trial will involve a reduction in the levels in some of the reservoirs above Hebden Bridge to allow for flood storage and if successful it could lead to a change in how the reservoirs operate.

Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “We welcome and support Yorkshire Water's announcement today of the pilot proposal to manage reservoirs in Calderdale to reduce flood risk across the borough. The Council has been lobbying consistently on this issue since Boxing Day 2015 to ensure all partners work together to reduce risks to local people and enhance our resilience, and we are pleased that Yorkshire Water has now taken this action.

“Methods such as tree planting and reservoir management are important ways to reduce flood risk, and we are totally committed to keep working with partner organisations and volunteers to protect residents and businesses.”

Councillor Barry Collins, Calderdale Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, added: "We are absolutely delighted to hear that Yorkshire Water will carry out a trial period during the winter in the reservoirs above Hebden Bridge. We look forward to the results and I'm absolutely convinced that if Yorkshire Water can overcome all the technical challenges involved, there is a real potential in reducing the speed of the flow of the main river through the Calder Valley."

Yorkshire Water wouldn't disclose how much the scheme is costing but it is being funded by Yorkshire Water, Defra, and the Woodlands Trust.