Severe rainfall in recent years has led to increased levels of flooding across the UK. 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 Environmental 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 insights from Arup’s multidisciplinary team of water, infrastructure, planning, carbon, social value and civil engineering specialists. This programme protects local people and their homes from future floods whilst building climate resilience for at-risk communities.  

Restoring Yorkshire’s assets

Arup, in collaboration with the client, identified over 300 projects across Yorkshire worth over £68 million, including repairs to bridges, culverts and river walls that were damaged due to intense rainfall. Our team set out a programme of works to enable these assets to be restored regularly, reducing the risk to communities while preventing future damage to housing, habitats and farmland.  

An example of an identified project damaged by a severe storm was Shade Chapel, in the village of Todmorden. The supporting structures to the culvert running beneath the Victorian building were badly affected, making the building unsafe and increasing flood risks. We advised that the building should be demolished to allow water to flow more freely through the open channel, reducing the risk of future failures and protecting 250 nearby properties. We also completed architectural landscaping for the area, working closely with the community to design pathways and areas which directly benefit the local school.  

Other projects, such as Bethells Bridge in Driffield, required urgent action to address safety risks. Following heavy flooding, the River Hull embankment was at risk of failing near the bridge. This resulted in the bridge’s structure being compromised and on the verge of collapse. To address the river bank’s instability, we specified for the installation of a new culvert between the existing water course and canal. This infrastructure needed to be implemented with minimal impact to the area’s wildlife, including the endangered otter population. Recognising this, we retained and reprofiled the banks of the water course and, in the process, provided increased vegetation for otters, water voles and badgers.


Digital visualisations played an important role in efficiently assessing the critical repair works programme. 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, by minimising earthwork volumes to reduce each project’s carbon footprint. The team used digital techniques to accurately monitor water levels on site and forecast reliable construction windows. This minimised programme delays while providing information in a simple digital format to support future asset management.  

We reviewed the programme by utilising a continuous improvement methodology to streamline activities, make improvements, and share successes. The insights on how to optimise a diverse repairs programme have been shared with the Environmental Agency and the contractor, Bam Nuttall, to inform future flood recovery scopes.  

People and organisations 

Communication was key to educating communities about local flooding risks. Arup’s team met with local people both before and after each project’s completion, with conversations explaining project goals and discussing how to mitigate potential disruptions to daily lives. By prioritising people in this way, we were able to build trusting relationships and understand each asset’s importance to the local community. In turn, we identified opportunities for the asset restoration programme to create additional social value, including using local suppliers to support nearby businesses.  

The restoration programme’s impact extended beyond each individual asset and raised over £10,000 for local people and charities in West Yorkshire though various community-building activities.  


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