Mott MacDonald designs and develops phase one of Don River flood protection

13 March 2018 3 min. read
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The 2007 floods along the River Don caused considerable social and economic damage to Lower Don Valley. In a bid to prevent further spillage the council recently worked with Mott MacDonald on a £21 million scheme – including a 1.8-kilometre brickwork and concrete river wall.

The floods during the summer of 2007, across much of the UK, hit residents of Sheffield hard. One of the city’s major waterways, the River Don, overflowed its banks, sending floodwaters throughout the Don Valley. The flood claimed two lives, while laying waste to a large number of properties and businesses in affected areas, particularly in the Lower Don Valley. The direct economic damages of the disaster spiralled into the hundreds of millions of pounds, just months before the nation would go into a state of economic shock now known as the credit crunch.

As deforestation in the UK, among a plethora of other factors, make it more than likely that the river will burst its banks again in the future, the Sheffield City Council ordered a various works to shore up the region against future flooding. One major aspect of the wider fortifications project, the cost of which is reported to have ballooned to £93 million, is the £21 million Sheffield Lower Don Valley flood defence project. The funding for the project came for 90% from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency.

Mott MacDonald designs and develops phase one of Don River flood protection

The recently completed work saw 51 elements deployed along the River Don, including a 1.8-kilometre brickwork and concrete river wall, two earth embankments and treatment of approximately 600 culverts and pipes that connect into the river.

Mott MacDonald was the lead designer on the scheme, providing, among others, civil, structural and geotechnical engineering services for the project, which were completed for the Sheffield City Council and the Environment Agency. The completed defence is said to secure the region’s 500 businesses and 5,000 residents against a catastrophic 1 in 900 year flood event.

Councillor Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, commented, “This project is the beginning of our commitment to preventing any future devastation. In the coming months and years, we will be doing more work to ensure that we reduce the risk of floods and protect residents, homes and businesses across Sheffield.”

In line with multiple instances of public spending on projects involving consulting firms, however, the large price-tag connected to the project has attracted scrutiny. While the current segment of the flood defence has been completed, concern has been raised about the wider £93 million development plan, with various parties weighing in to criticise what is deemed an expensive, ineffective and environmentally damaging proposal.

Professor Ian Rotherham, former director of the Ecological Advisory Service for Sheffield Council, said about the plans, "I think something needs to be done about flood-proofing the city, but I don’t think this is it. This is what I describe as working against the grain of nature rather than with the grain of nature. I think it has a negative impact and appears to be completely misconceived, ill-founded and an enormous waste of money."