New funding announced for innovative flood resilience project

New funding announced for innovative flood resilience project

Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, Wessex Water and the Environment Agency are working in partnership to deliver a range of benefits to communities across the river Frome catchment.

22 December 2021

The “Frome Catchment Innovation Programme” will be developed in 2022 to find new ways of managing the risk of flooding from the River Frome.  

By working collaboratively using a ‘whole-systems approach’, the partners hope to find new solutions to tackle different challenges, including the climate and ecological emergencies, how to improve public spaces, and how to ensure local flood resilience in urban areas.

While many of the proposed improvements to the river catchment will be localised, by working across the whole catchment, the project aims to bring multiple benefits in multiple locations. For example, creating new ponds and woody dams in rural, upstream areas of South Gloucestershire will improve water quality, ecology and sustainable land management, as well as helping to reduce flood risk.

Funding has now been awarded to develop an Outline Business Case to include early proposals for different projects covering the whole River Frome catchment. If the business case is approved by the council’s Cabinet and then Defra in 2022, around £6m of funding could be unlocked to carry out various projects to improve the river catchment.

Councillor Nicola Beech, Bristol City Council cabinet member with responsibility for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy, said:

“This project is a fantastic opportunity to work beyond Bristol’s borders to tackle major issues like flood risk management and biodiversity loss. These issues are not limited just to Bristol. By working with partners, we can improve the entire catchment area at the same time as creating multiple benefits for Bristol’s residents and businesses.

“Projects like this are vital to supporting our ambitions to regenerate brownfield city centre land to safely build housing and new community spaces in areas currently at risk of flooding. The Frome catchment is largely rural, but it all flows downstream and converges in St Judes, so it is crucial we take a whole system approach and work across boundaries if we want to create a more resilient city centre and protect our densely populated urban areas.”

Works as part of the project are likely to include: 

  • Sustainable land management in upstream rural areas in South Gloucestershire to hold water upstream. This could include creating ponds and woody dams, and redirecting river channels, helping to reduce flood risk, as well as improving water quality and biodiversity. 
  • Retrofitting Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). These provide storm water storage to reduce surface water flooding and improve water quality, as well as transforming local public spaces by increasing trees, wildlife and air quality in more urban areas. 
  • Bringing businesses and land managers together to find environmental solutions that deliver multiple positive outcomes within the catchment area. 
  • Restoration of the river as part of the Frome Gateway regeneration project. The restoration will be a key component of the emerging development framework, building on community engagement and what local people would like to see. 
  • Investigating innovative ways to regenerate brownfield land to safely build housing and new community spaces in areas at risk of flooding, in order to make new developments more resilient in the long term.

Bristol City Council will also work to ensure the project aligns with the Frome Gateway regeneration project, in order to put the river at the heart of a transformed area with new homes, jobs, and public spaces.

Cllr Steve Reade, South Gloucestershire Council cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure, said:

“We are delighted that the Frome Catchment Innovation Programme has received this funding, which will help us look at new ways to improve flood risk management through innovative and nature-based solutions. This supports our climate emergency goals by helping us to support local wildlife, enhance some of our public spaces and reinforce local flood resilience in the surrounding areas.”

Heather Barker, Bristol Frome Project Manager, Environment Agency, said:

“This project will kick start innovative approaches to flood management in urban and rural areas of the Frome catchment. Using nature-based solutions to reduce the impact of flooding will not only help communities be more resilient to future climate change; it will also benefit wildlife and water quality and improve the urban environment.”

Matt Wheeldon, Director of Assets and Compliance, Wessex Water, said:

“Surface water flow and biodiversity don’t work in isolation or within man-made, administrative borders. It’s only by working together across our boundaries that we can work with nature to help us to deliver multiple outcomes and deliver sustainable flood risk management and water quality improvements.”

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