How more than £10m is being used to prevent repeat of Norwich’s painful flooding
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
The next phase of a multi-million pound project to prevent hundreds of homes around Norwich being affected by flooding will see work carried out in Hellesdon and Old Catton.
Norfolk County Council is in the midst of a £10.3m project to improve the ageing drainage system in Norwich and surrounding villages.
Work has already been carried out in Taverham, Drayton and Sprowston and is well under way in Thorpe St Andrew after the county council secured £9.1m from the Department for Transport and added in £1.2m of its own cash.
Almost a hundred properties were affected by flooding in 2014.
An estimated £2m worth of damage was caused to businesses, schools and homes in Old Catton, Sprowston, Hellesdon, Riverside and Thorpe St Andrew after heavy rainfall.
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Rainfall on May 27 and July 20 that year caused the most disruption, thought to be 1 in 16 year and 1 in 121 year events.
The problem was that parts of the city were relying on an ageing drainage network nearing the end of its useful life, unable to cope with heavy downpours.
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Chris Alston, highways area manager, said there had been plans in the 1970s to replace the drainage system, but a lack of money meant only about 20pc of what was proposed happened.
He said: 'We had gulleys in place which did not take water to the river, but just soakaways, which are holes in the ground filled with brick and rubble. They were up to 60 years old and just not suitable.
'Norwich is a city with industry and all sorts going on. We do not want it flooded. We know that it is incredibly upsetting to be flooded. The silt and mess when you are flooded is dreadful.'
It means the council and its contractors Eurovia have been laying down more than three miles of pipe, along with 85 chambers for water and 100 gullies.
The work has meant roads have had to be shut, with some 27 roads in Thorpe St Andrew affected, including the ring road and St William's Way. The work started in January.
There are another two miles of pipes left to be put in place by the end of the year, with further work due to start in Hellesdon and Old Catton in the months ahead.
Engineers had used radar equipment to establish where the various cables lie buried beneath the ground, but they have still faced challenges given some of the roads date back decades.
In Thunder Lane, for example, for all the planning done in advance, there were still cables which were only discovered once the road was dug up. Mr Alston said: 'That road is like snakes and ladders. They have found foundations of houses down there and it's proving a real challenge.
'We have had ground mapping radar in use, but when they got there and started digging up the road all sorts was turning up which they hadn't expected.'
However, Mr Alston said the project had required engineers to think on the fly to come up with solutions to the challenges.
But, despite issues such as that, and the complexity of rejigging a city's surface drainage, Mr Alston said: 'We are on track, on target and on spend.'
So, when will it become clear whether all the hard work has been worth it? The worst rainfall of 2014 was described as a 1 in 121 year event, so, statistically, a comparable event is some years away.
But Mr Alston said: 'I'm from the north of England, near the Pennines, so I'm used to somewhere a lot wetter than here. But since I've been down here, whatever your view on global warming. I'd say Norwich is definitely getting wetter.'
Autumn and winter is likely to be the litmus test for whether the work has been successful. He said it was likely there would still be cases of 'ponding' - where pools of water form on roads - but that properties should not be flooded.
Ian Mackie, county councillor for Thorpe St Andrew, said: 'Improvements to the surface water drainage has been a major issue in Thorpe St Andrew, particularly as more homes are added to the network.
'This is a significant investment by the council and government and is greatly welcomed by those residents in areas that have suffered from excess surface flooding.
'This new system is also helping to plan for the future and reduce the risks of flooding.'
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