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 Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies

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Ryedale District Council has agreed to spend £800,000 on two embankments to hold back water from Pickering beck.

Latest news from the Ryedale Flood Research Group

All of the project team members are delighted to hear this news. Sarah Whatmore commented that "This is fantastic news and a result of which the whole RFRG should be deservedly proud. A wonderful (and all too rare) example of an experimental research process actually producing something tangible in terms both of policy process and flood mitigation practice."

Mike Potter of the Rydale Flood Research group announced the news by saying "It doesn't yet protect the town, but it's a major step in the right direction, so may be worth a small celebration."

Follow on project

Project team members Catharina Landstrom and Geoff Whitman, working with Visiting Fellow, Kathryn Monk of the Environment Agency Wales, have submitted a proposal to the ESRC for funding for a follow on project. For further details, please see the Follow on project section of the website.

Life after the Ryedale Flood Research Group

During the summer of 2008, as the RFRG ended its 12 months of activity, thought turned to the legacy that we wanted to leave. We agreed to brief the Environment Agency of our findings in June of 2008 as well as to make our work public, through an exhibition mounted in October 2008.

The briefing to the Environment Agency was timely because Defra had issued a call for Demonstration Projects concerned with implementing and so demonstrating interventions in river catchments to reduce downstream flood risk. Forest Research agreed to lead the bid for the Demonstration Project, in outline form initially, and when it was short-listed by Defra in November 2008. In March 2009, the Demonstrating Project, Slowing the Flow in Pickering, was one of three projects to be chosen for funding and the project commenced in July 2009.

The Slowing the Flow project is formally testing and hoping to implement the bund solution identified by the RFRG. It is also extending the RFRG’s modelling work to look at additional catchment interventions, such as debris dams, that might also contribute to flood risk reduction in Pickering. It is worth emphasising the Slowing the Flow is not a research project but a demonstration project, concerned with implementing scientifically-informed flood reduction measures. In this case, it is informed by the way in which the RFRG was able to mobilise and to produce new forms of knowledge. Jeff Pacey, the Ouse Catchment Manager for the Environment Agency summarised the impact of the RFRG’s work:

“The RELU Project was very much a catalyst for our bid to Defra for the Pitt review Project "slowing the Flow". The RFRG study provided background information, technical support and public support which helped progress the upstream storage element of the Slowing the Flow Project. The production of the model by the RFRG and the identification of the key bund locations from this initial large scale modelling provided significant cost savings to the Slowing the Flow project.

The work completed by the RFRG within Pickering once again highlighted Pickering’s flood risk and provided a large amount of background material that was used to inform the tender for the Defra demonstration project. This also provided key links with the communities and an opportunity for knowledge share across the projects.

The final point to make is that this work enabled us to improve our relationship with the community in Pickering and one that will hopefully lead to a successful outcome for all.”

Phil Rothwell of the EA, Tom Nisbet (Forestry Research) and Simon Marrington of the Slowing the Flow project board were interviewed on "You and Yours" on January 27th 2010. The interview takes place between 18:40 and 26 minutes into the broadcast. Click to listen here

Flooding in the news

Phil Rothwell, Head of Flood Risk Management Policy at the EA, was interviewed on the Today Programme, Radio 4, on 23rd November 2009. He cited the work at Pickering Beck as an example of new approaches to tackling flooding.

Have your say

Is the draft flood and water management bill going to address current and future flooding problems in the UK? Have your say here

The summer floods of 2007 caused huge financial, physical, financial and personal damage to many households and communities around the UK. Reviews of flooding, such as the ‘Foresight: Future Flooding Study2’ (2004), the UK government’s ‘Making space for water’ (2004) and Sir Michael Pitt’s Review (2007) have all highlighted critical gaps in the management of flood risk in this country. These include outmoded approaches and organisational structures, the unknown impacts of climate change and an increase in the risk of flooding to individuals, communities and society more widely. Critically, current flood legislation is considered too rigid to be able to adapt a broader range of approaches necessary to respond to our increased flood risks. The Draft flood and water management bill is designed to respond to these challenges through an engagement with concepts as ‘adaptation’ and ‘resilience’ and by recognising that a broader suite of measures is necessary to tackle flooding under conditions of uncertain environmental change. This includes potentially controversial measures such as allowing some places to flood. But will it work? As part of our wider RELU funded research project on Understanding Environmental Knowledge Controversies: The Case for Flood Risk Management we want to initiate a debate that asks the following question: Is the draft flood and water management bill going to address current and future flooding problems in the UK? We want to do this through an online debating forum called Debategraph in which all interested and concerned individuals can actively contribute their views and opinions. Our aim is to use this debate to inform flood risk policy as part of our project’s wider contribution to this crucial policy area. If you have views and opinions on this issue or are just interested in being part of such a debate then please go to Debategraph, and let us hear what you have to say.

Flooding in January 2008