Cumbrian floods could lead to flood mitigation re-think says landscape specialist

Thinking around hard engineering solutions and their replacement with soft landscape flood mediation should be under discussion after Storm Desmond caused flooding in Cumbria, says green space consultant Peter Neal.

Keswick in Cumbria also flooded in 2005 and 2009, after which the Environment Agency spent £12m on flood defences, which were were completed in 2012. Some £38m was spent in Carlisle, also in Cumbria, after the 2009 floods.

However, water flooded over the defences into hundreds of properties after more than 30cm of rain in 24 hours last weekend.

Green space consultant Peter Neal, who has family links to Keswick, said the Government is "going to have to do a detailed study on expenditure and look to see if drainage-based landscape-scale ideas could provide opportunities to reduce some heavy infrastructure and engineering costs - and offset them with green and environmental systems that can hold capacity and look at techniques to mediate flow as water goes through surrounding landscapes before it goes to urban areas".

Neal said cleaning and remediation of soft landscaping other than sports pitches is relatively straightforward, but park bridges and structures are a more costly element to rebuild.

He said with local authority parks budgets so tight, in the US central government had provided funding for remediation after storms hit the Hudson River Park area, but that might be more difficult in the UK.

Neal is working on a Milton Keynes project to build flood plain forest and that ideas such as this could become more prevalent given a five-year cycle of flooding in Cumbria, rather than the 100-year cycle expected.

Elsewhere in Cumbria, in Appleby, the River Eden burst its banks and flooded green space and parks.

Carlisle United Football Club's Brunton Park was underwater and could be out of action for months. Home games may have to be played at Morecambe FC after water reached the crossbar.

Defra said: "Flood defences performed as they were designed to but because of the exceptional levels of rainfall we have seen water overtopping some flood defences. These defences have still provided vital time for the emergency services to evacuate homes and preparations to be made."

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