Following the devastating impact of widespread flooding across Britain, Sheffield has sought to strengthen its plans for defences in the Lower Don Valley by bidding for a £10 million increase in funding from the Environment Agency.

The Lower Don Valley flood defence project aims to improve flood defences in the Lower Don Valley by implementing more than 40 interventions across an 8km stretch of the River Don, which was severely flooded in 2000 and 2007.

Building on the initial design, which targeted a one in 100 year event standard at a cost of £8.1 million, the Council has applied for additional funds from the Environment Agency Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA) to provide longer term protection against the effects of climate change.

If the funding application is successful, the additional government grant will mean the defences proposed to date can be raised and extended further. The newly proposed scheme is expected to cost £19.053 million with the Environment Agency bid totalling £12.144 million compared to the original £1.2 million the council bid for.

With the project proposal having been agreed by the Council, officers from the City Regeneration Division attended a meeting in London on Wednesday 8 January to seek approval for the FDGiA grant from the Environment Agency Large Projects Review Group. Formal confirmation of a decision is expected in March 2014.

Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said:

“In June last year the council approved a ‘one in a 100 year event standard scheme’ which we estimated would cost £8.1 million.

However, discussions with the Environment Agency’s Large Projects Review Group also highlighted that more funding may be available for construction works to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure the results stand the test of time.

Sheffield’s Lower Don Valley area was severely flooded in 2000 and 2007 causing massive disruption and multi-million pound damages to hundreds of businesses, power, transport and the telecommunications infrastructure. Considering the devastating consequences flooding continues to cause across the country, the opportunity to apply for extra funding is more important than ever before.

If we successfully secure additional funding it will allow the level of flood defences to be raised and extended further to provide a greater level of protection to businesses based on current flooding projections.”

The money will complement the £1.4m investment businesses agreed to contribute to the scheme following a Business Improvement District (BID) ballot last month. This private sector contribution remains vital as it finances the ongoing channel maintenance element of the project, which is not eligible for government funding.

The commitment of businesses to address flood risk in the area has also given a clear boost to efforts to secure the grant from the Environment Agency.

The FDGiA bid will represent the final element of the project’s funding. A £5.5 million grant was approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in February 2013.

In December 2013, 82 per cent of voters in a ballot of businesses chose to support the proposal to establish a Business Improvement District (BID), meaning that the mechanism will come into effect in July 2014.

The Council and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce have been liaising closely with businesses in the area for more than two years regarding the flood defences proposals, the BID process and levels of contributions.

Small companies with a rateable value less than £12,000 will be excluded from paying towards the project, while more than 60 percent of businesses in the BID area will pay less than £2,500 over five years towards the flood defences and river management.

BIDs are common in other large cities, but this is the first for Sheffield and the first in the country around a construction scheme, such as flood defences.

Richard Wright, executive director for Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The FDGiA grant has always been a vital element of delivering this project so we hope it will be formally approved by the Environment Agency in the near future. Through the majority ‘yes’ vote in December’s BID ballot we have demonstrated a clear commitment to ongoing channel maintenance and without this support from the business community we would not have been able to apply for this extra funding from the Environment Agency.

If we get this additional public grant, businesses’ BID contributions will not increase, so it will further improve the value for money for BID levy payers. As the first of its type in the country, this BID is an excellent example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work well together.”

The project is due to begin in the next few months with site preparations and detailed design. As a result of the proposed changes to the scheme, the planning applications which were submitted in September 2013 have now been withdrawn, and will be re-submitted in due course when the designs have been updated.

The project is due to be completed by late 2015.

Sheffield City Council was one of the first authorities to develop a Flood Risk Management Strategy and works closely with partners to manage flooding issues citywide, including in the Upper Don, River Sheaf, Blackburn Brook and Porter Brook.

The Council is improving road drainage through our Streets Ahead project and are working with housing developers to promote the use of sustainable drainage systems which reduce the risk of flooding and are environmentally friendly.

Find out more about the Sheffield Lower Don Valley Flood Defence Project and Business Improvement District.