Multi-million pound flood defence scheme submitted to planners

Plans to improve protection from flooding for businesses in the Lower Don Valley have taken a step forward after planning applications for the project were submitted by Sheffield City Council.

The proposals have been developed by the Council working closely with the Environment Agency, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and representatives from affected businesses in the city.

The plans relate to three specific sites – Savile Street Saw Mill, land close to Sanderson’s Weir and Meadowhall Road. They involve the construction of new flood walls, raising and reinforcement of existing structures, reinforcement of vulnerable bridge parapets and installation of flood gates.

The designs will enhance the local character and environment, and retain and improve the views and access to the river wherever possible.

In total, the project will deliver nearly 40 separate interventions along the 8km stretch of the River Don between Nursery Street in the city centre and the Blackburn Brook near the M1 motorway.

The project will also put in place essential channel clearance and maintenance which will compliment the new defences. This will aim to improve current standards of flood protection, which are estimated to provide as low as 1 in 25-year event standard, to the target of 1 in 100-year event standard.

Cllr Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is an innovative partnership between the Council, the Environment Agency and the private sector. We can achieve a lot by working together like this.

“This will establish a long-term mechanism for managing the River Don as a safe and attractive feature.  Flood defences are clearly required. The project is excellent value for money and it should give businesses much better protection than there is now.”

Sheffield City Council recently approved a total budget of £8.1million for the flood defences project, subject to funds being secured.

Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has already provided £5.5m and an application is being submitted for a further £1.2million from the Environment Agency.

But the success of the project is reliant on the support of businesses in the Lower Don Valley backing the planning application, granting access for construction and importantly voting to contribute to the costs through a Business Improvement District (BID) which would generate £1.4million.

The business contribution will cover part of the building cost and will also ensure the river channel is properly maintained and kept clear over the next five years.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Sheffield City Council believe a BID is the best way to generate the private sector contributions.  It would see more than 250 affected companies in the Lower Don Valley making a payment calculated on their rateable value over a fixed period of five years.

Under the proposal more than half of businesses in the BID area would pay less than £2,500 over five years towards the flood defences and river management.

A BID has to be approved by a majority vote of businesses balloted on the plans. This is expected to take place in December 2013.

A prospectus and full business plan about the flood defences and the BID will be made available shortly to affected businesses to allow them to make their decision on how to vote.

A series of public events are also planned in the next two months to ensure that voters fully understand the proposed project and the implications of the BID for their business.

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

Richard Wright, Executive Director at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, added: “The project should help existing businesses get insurance cover and it would give potential investors increased certainty regarding the feasibility and security of development sites.

“It provides the knowledge that a flood defence project for the 8km stretch of river will be delivered to strengthen the viability of this vital economic area for the region.”

The aim is to have a full funding package secured by early 2014 to enable the start on site immediately, with physical completion in mid-2015.

The project comes at a time when the Lower Don Valley has been defined as the core of the Enterprise Zone for the Sheffield City Region aiming to attract further investment and development in modern manufacturing in the area. Flood risk has been identified as a key obstacle to growth.

The Sheffield 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 telecommunications infrastructure.

For more information about the Sheffield Lower Don Valley flood protection project visit http://www.scci.org.uk/home/projects/sheffield-lower-don-valley-flood-defence-project

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