For more than 30 years I have been campaigning with Sheffield Green Party to alert people and decision makers to the dangers of climate change. As fossil fuels are still being burnt, extreme weather events are increasing in both severity and frequency all around the world.
This means that the likelihood of Sheffield experiencing further flooding as bad as or worse than 2007 is continually increasing and it is vital that we are prepared for it. Sheffield Council is currently consulting about its plans to improve our flood defences. Please go to Sheffield Council Protecting Sheffield from Flooding website and read about their suggestions and fill in the questionnaire.
Sheffield Greens believe the most important priority should be land management options in the rural areas around Sheffield, that can be used to capture and store water and help it to slow down and soak away before reaching the rivers. They can also help to improve habitats and water quality. We will need many individual measures each having a small impact. These projects would need to be delivered in partnership with landowners and other organisations to reduce the flows during a major flood. They would include tree planting, managing farmland to hold back water and creating small ponds and timber dams in rivers.
In the city we should prioritise measures that have a win win effect. For instance uncovering currently culverted stretches of river removes pinch points to reduce flooding risk, but also improves wildlife habitat and amenity for city residents. Introducing small hydro power schemes along the rivers could reduce flooding risk while at the same time producing clean energy and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. But unfortunately we will also need walls along some river banks that may obstruct our view of the rivers. The Council are also proposing many catchment options that could impact on much loved places such as Endcliffe and Millhouses Parks and Whiteley Woods.
What is missing from the consultation is mention of the Council’s policy regarding street trees. Many mature street trees are due to be felled because they are “disrupting the pavement”, even though the trees contribute to flood prevention. The Council should be using simple engineering methods to enable us to keep these trees.
Also missing from the report are simple measures that every household and business should take to help prevent flooding, which the council should be encouraging. Collection of rainwater in a water butt to be used later for watering reduces the water heading for the drains in a flood. Removing hard surfaces in gardens and replacing it with permeable surfaces or preferably plants and trees that soak up the rain is another important consideration. Installation of living green roofs throughout the city would also have a tremendous impact in reducing the flood threat. The Council should start by ensuring all new build housing has these features.
Sheffield Green Party
See the Woodland Trust Trees in our Town report (pdf) for further information regarding the role of street trees in flood prevention.
See the Flood Risk Checker to find areas of Sheffield threatened by flooding.