Reducing the risk of flooding is especially
challenging in the North West.

This catchment scheme was possible because of strong and effective partnerships.

Analysis of Met Office data shows that average annual water run-off in the North West is 28 per cent higher than the average for England and Wales, meaning more water runs into our sewers and increasing flood risk.

Covering natural areas with new developments such as house building makes it harder to manage surface water run-off. With climate change increasing the frequency and intensity of storms, tackling flooding is becoming of greater concern for regional stakeholders. No single organisation can tackle this problem alone; only by working in partnership will the benefits from reducing flooding risk to wider society be realised.

One example of partnership working is in Thornton, near Blackpool, which is in the low-lying, flat and saturated River Wyre catchment. The area has experienced flooding from multiple sources and water quality issues from misconnections. Because the sewer network is combined, bringing together surface water and sewage from homes and businesses, there is limited capacity for extra water, which then has to be pumped to nearby Fleetwood wastewater treatment works.

The traditional solution to install concrete storage tanks to reduce the effects of storm flows wasn't cost beneficial or environmentally sustainable.

In 2019, we engaged with other risk management authorities, catchment partners such as the Rivers Trust, and the community group of the Wyre Flood Forum, to develop a plan to tackle the joint issues in the catchment. We challenged ourselves to examine how to store and purify flood waters through natural flood management and how we could realise multiple benefits through targeted extra investment.

The scope of the agreed solution included:

  • 3.3 hectares of wetlands, 1,000m3 of flood storage and restoring the river to its natural state;
  • 1,300m3 of storage and wetlands habitat constructed in collaboration with McDermott Homes; and
  • an investment of £220k to the Wyre Rivers Trust.

This catchment scheme was possible because of strong and effective partnerships. Support came from the EU LIFE-funded Natural Course project. Working with the developer to use land for flood risk management was vitally important, as was access to alternative funding streams to help realise wider benefits. Looking ahead, we will monitor the wetlands to understand the catchment and assess ecological improvement, with input from local communities.

The success of this collaboration can be applied to other partnerships across the North West.