Hundreds of thousands of trees will be planted as part of a long-term plan aimed at reducing flood risk in the Calder Valley – which was devastated by the storms of December 2015.
The towns of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, in West Yorkshire, were severely affected when the River Calder burst its banks just over a year ago.
When the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review responded to the inundation last year, community groups in Hebden Bridge called it “shockingly disappointing”, partly because it made virtually no mention of the importance of managing how water drains from the surrounding moorland.
Now Yorkshire Water has announced its long term Natural Flood Management plan for the Calder Valley which will start with a plan to plant up to 200,000 trees in the next few years.
The moors above Gorpley reservoir, between Todmorden and Bacup, has been identified as a site where tree planting can begin. A 60 hectare area of “species-poor grassland” will be planted with 3,000 trees per hectare by local community groups.
A spokesman said other flood management measures will also be implemented on these moors over the next five to 10 years, including restoring sphagnum moss on 43 hectares of blanket bog – a move which he said will help absorb and slow down rainwater run-off.
The spokesman said Yorkshire Water is also looking at repairing dams on smaller watercourses, strengthening river banks and creating a patchwork of wetland areas on its upland estates.
Granville Davies, manager of asset strategy for Yorkshire Water, said: “The flooding at Christmas 2015 had a devastating impact on communities in the Calder Valley and we fully recognise the responsibility for all agencies involved in flood management to work together to devise innovative solutions to reduce the risk of flooding.
“In addition to contributing to the Calderdale Flood Action Plan, we’re leading Calderdale’s Natural Flood Management Group and working with partners, like the White Rose Forest, to look for innovative ways that we can use our land to slow the flow of water in the upper catchments, evaluating the best places for us to plant trees and build leaky dams, and engaging with other landowners in the area.”
The company is working with the White Rose Forest, which is made up of a number of organisations who aim to plant and manage more woodland to make the region a greener and a healthier place.
Guy Thompson, from the White Rose Forest, said: “We very much look forward to working with local partners, businesses and the farming community to help design and deliver a resilient and long-lasting transformation of this site that will provide not only flood risk benefits but also strengthen ecological networks and create a fantastic place to visit for years to come.”
Yorkshire Water said its Gorpley Reservoir is already used for flood attenuation rather than water supply. The Environment Agency alters the releases of water to try and maintain the reservoir at 73% full or below to enable it act as a sink at times of high rainfall.