The UK has experienced severe rainfall in recent years, which has led to increased levels of flooding across the country. In Yorkshire in the North of England, this issue significantly damaged the county’s flood defence assets, meaning that – without intervention – over 25,000 homes in the area were at risk from future flooding events.
In response, the Environment Agency collaborated with Arup to establish the Yorkshire Asset Recovery Programme. The programme worked to restore Yorkshire’s defences to their pre-flood condition, drawing insight and expertise from Arup’s multi-disciplinary team of water, infrastructure, planning, carbon, social value and civil engineering specialists. This programme protects local people – and their homes – from future flooding events, while building climate resilience for at-risk communities.
301 individual projects identified
c.25,000homes better protected
250people employed at the peak of the works
Restoring assets across Yorkshire
Working collaboratively with the client, we identified over 300 projects across Yorkshire worth over £68 million, including repairs to bridges, culverts, and river walls – which were damaged as a result of intense rainfall. Our team then set out a programme of works to enable these assets to be urgently restored, reducing risk to people and their properties while preventing future damage to housing, habitats, and farmland.
For example, a culvert running beneath a Victorian building – Shade Chapel – in the village of Todmorden had been badly damaged by a storm affecting its supporting structures. This made the building above it unsafe but – most crucially – put the local area at an increased risk to flooding. We advised that the building should be demolished to allow the water to flow more freely through the open channel, reducing its risk of failure in the future and protecting 250 nearby properties. To improve the area’s resilience further, we remodelled the nearby water course to improve its water flow and restored natural habitats. We also completed architectural landscaping for the area, working closely with the community to design pathways and areas which directly benefit the local school and its pupils.
Other projects, such as Bethells Bridge in Driffield, required urgent action to address safety risks. Following heavy flooding in the area, the embankment of the River Hull was at risk of failing in close proximity to the bridge. This meant that the structure of the bridge was compromised and on the verge of collapse. To address the instability of the river bank, we specified for a new culvert to be installed in between the existing water course and canal. This infrastructure needed to be implemented with minimal impact to the area’s wildlife – including its endangered otter population. Recognising this, we retained and reprofiled the banks of the water course and provided increased vegetation for otters, water voles, and badgers in the process.
Optimising the programme through digital modelling
Digital visualisations played an important role in efficiently assessing the extensive programme of critical repair works. Our 3D models advanced the construction engineering process by streamlining information flow directly with the contractor. Precise site models allowed us to improve construction efficiency, for example, by minimising earthwork volumes – reducing the carbon footprint of each project. The team also used digital techniques to accurately monitor water levels on site and forecast reliable construction windows. This minimised delays to the programme while providing information in a simple and clear digital format to support future asset management.
We frequently reviewed the programme by utilising a continuous improvement methodology to streamline activities, make improvements, and share successes. The insights on how to optimise a large and diverse programme of repairs have been shared with the Environment Agency and the contractor, Bam Nuttall, and these will inform future flood recovery work scopes.
The efforts of Arup staff were fundamental to the delivery of this challenging business-critical programme of works. Excellent collaboration with both client and contractor was key to the programme’s success. ” Robert Bayton Senior Project Manager, Environment Agency
Community voice and local impact
Frequent communication was key to educating communities about the risks of flooding in their local areas. Our team met with local people both before and after the completion of each project. During these conversations, we explained our project goals and openly discussed any potential disruptions to their daily lives – with the intention of finding ways to mitigate these. By prioritising people in this way, we were able to build trusting relationships and better understand the importance of each asset to the local community. In turn, we identified opportunities for the asset restoration programme to create additional social value – such as using local suppliers to support nearby businesses.
The restoration programme’s impact extended beyond each individual asset and the programme raised over £10,000 for local people and charities in west Yorkshire through various community-building activities.