Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire led the national news in December 2015 after devasting floods swept through the village. Regions across the rain-soaked north of England also suffered, due to the widespread nature of Storm Desmond, but it was to Mytholmroyd that many of the cameras and reporters headed, given the visible scale of the damage and the height that the flood waters reached.
Local residents and business owners had become wearily used to such events, given the village’s position within the steep-sided, narrow Calder Valley, but were nevertheless shocked by the impact. The Environment Agency appointed us on a design and build contract, to help develop and deliver a lasting flood alleviation scheme at pace, against the backdrop of political pressure and an expectant local population.
What we did
Planning, gaining regulatory and budgetary approval, and designing schemes of this nature often takes many years, but that wasn’t an option in this case – we needed to collectively act much faster. We delivered some enabling works over the next few months through the Environment Agency’s existing asset recovery contract. This was critical to fast-tracking the main works, but it was also important for local people to see actual physical signs of progress.
The main works proceeded with early contractor involvement, design, and construction works running in parallel as far as possible, rather than the more traditional sequential approach. Our team estimated that this collaborative style, along with the smart procurement to fast-track the enabling works, allowed the main construction to begin two and a half years earlier.
The new defences consist of raised precast concrete floodwalls, that are supported by steel sheet and concrete bored piles. We widened the channel at key pinch points, to increase the volume of water the river could carry away during flash floods. A new road bridge was therefore needed to span the widened channel in the centre of the village.
Delivery wasn’t without its challenges. The narrow and heavily developed valley floor - with houses, business, underground services and a key trunk road competing for space - minimised the number of solutions that could be utilised. Our community liaison approach allowed us to take on board and react to the views of stakeholders, and our careful programming meant we kept traffic flowing along the valley, despite some inevitable lane closures.
On two occasions, the team reacted at short notice to further big flood events, to help protect properties. The later stages of the construction programme were also delivered against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. We devised and agreed safe social distancing working protocols with the Environment Agency to keep the site open and meet the programme.
Four hundred homes, businesses and community facilities now enjoy much greater protection.
The fact-track nature of the procurement and pre-construction activities on this, and other projects helped the Environment Agency develop a more streamlined model for its new Collaborative Delivery Framework, where client, designer and contractor teams, work together to efficiently plan and deliver regional programmes of work.
We received two Considerate Constructor Scheme Gold awards. This shows we met the scheme’s highest standards in respecting the community, caring for the environment, and valuing our workforce.