The Connected by Water Action Plan will tackle the climate emergency head on by combining the construction of flood walls and barriers with nature-based solutions.
The plan looks at the whole of the South Yorkshire region and considers how water can be managed from the peaks to the sea.
It comes following devastating flooding across South Yorkshire in November 2019 where Doncaster in particular was badly hit after the River Don burst its banks.
Nearly 900 homes across the borough were severely affected by flooding and the clean-up cost the council thousands with many displaced from their homes for many months afterwards.
It cost the council over £650,000 in recovery and the equivalent of 2200 Olympic-sized swimming pools were drained from affected areas which included Bentley, Fishlake Scawthorpe, Conisbrough, Denaby, Tickhill, Intake and Balby.
The area had a month’s rainfall in just one day which led to 51 road closures, 1,200 homes were advised to evacuate and the council received 2,000 calls to their emergency helpline.
Figures also show 80,000 sandbags were issued and 700 properties were flooded or deemed ‘unlivable’.
The Connected by Water Action Plan was first conceived after floods devastated South Yorkshire in 2019.
Leaders in the public and private sector across the region said they were ‘experiencing the impacts of climate change first-hand’ and made a commitment to work together to tackle the issue.
Councils, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and other organisations formed a partnership and work began on the action plan, which combines 144 actions and 100 projects with a total investment of £400 million to better protect over 17,000 homes, businesses and infrastructure across South Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire Mayor, Dan Jarvis will officially launch the plan today at a virtual event, with guest speakers including Floods Minister Rebecca Pow, chair of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd, Yorkshire Water chief executive Liz Barber and chief executive of Barnsley Council, Sarah Norman.
Mr Jarvis said: “After the devastating floods across South Yorkshire, I fought for government funding to protect us from a repeat of the scenes we saw in 2019 – securing £80 million which has helped towards the launch of today’s flood catchment plan to protect the region.
“This ‘living plan’ will continue to evolve based on what we learn over the coming months and years, but it will always ensure that we protect homes and businesses across South Yorkshire from the devastating impact of flooding.
“A key part of this is using natural solutions to cut flood risk, like tree planting and land management, because it doesn’t just tackle flooding, it helps with nature recovery and gets us closer to our target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest.
“Climate change is leading to increased rainfall and rising sea levels which hugely increase flood risks, but by introducing nature-based solutions to the mix we can break the cycle.”
Floods Minister Rebecca Pow added: “This plan is a crucial step forward in improving the climate resilience of communities across South Yorkshire, which I hope will avoid a repeat of the devastating impact the November 2019 flooding had on people and businesses across the region.
“Aided through more than £110 million in government funding, this plan is part of our record £5.2 billion investment over the next six years to better protect 336,000 properties across England and build on the 66,000 homes in Yorkshire already better protected since 2015.”
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency also said that for every £1 spent on flood prevention measures, the region avoids £5 in property damage.
She also said that ‘nature based solutions’ are also an important element of the plan and will ‘help reduce flood risk, enhance water quality and support nature recovery’.
A programme of over 100 projects is listed in the plan, valued at £400 million, aiming to protect over 17,000 homes and businesses. There are 27 priority projects within this, better protecting over 10,000 homes and businesses, and nine ‘shovel-ready’ projects valued at £63 million to better protect 1,400 homes.
The plan also highlights new collaborations such as the Source to Sea Nature Based Solution Programme, comprising three projects across the upper, lower, and middle Don to implement a range of natural solutions to slow the flow and create more space for water.
Flood defence work already completed and underway in South Yorkshire
In response to the 2019 floods, £20 million of flood repair works have been completed by the Environment Agency, including a £3m scheme at Fishlake to repair defences in the village.
Bentley Ings Pumping Station in Doncaster has undergone a £12m upgrade to better protect 1,669 homes from surface water flooding, with significant carbon savings.
The Rotherham Renaissance Flood Alleviation Scheme is underway to reduce the risk of flooding and when complete, it will extend along 5km of the River Don through Templeborough, Rotherham Town Centre and Parkgate.
The Templeborough phase of the scheme was completed in 2008, at a cost of £15.7million. Between 2009 and 2011, £1.3 million was spent on the Rotherham Town Centre phase. Work is continuing on this phase, with construction ongoing at several sites.
The Sheffield Lower Don Valley Flood Alleviation Scheme completed in 2017. This £20 million scheme on the River Don in Sheffield better protects over 300 businesses, securing approximately 5,000 jobs.
Yorkshire Water has invested £78 million into Blackburn Meadows wastewater treatment works to meet future challenges of predicted population increase and more extreme weather caused by climate change.
This investment delivered an improved ability to operate during times of heavy rainfall, a significant improvement in the quality of the water discharged into the river and enhanced treatment capabilities in preparation for the predicted increase in South Yorkshire’s population.