As we resume work on the Roath flood scheme, John Hogg, Head of Operations for South Wales Central, explains the background and some of the detailed work that’s led to this scheme being implemented.
The project to reduce flood risk for people in 405 properties in Roath has been one of the most challenging that NRW’s Projects Delivery team has worked on.
Just some of the things they had to take into account were its urban and highly-populated location, the Grade II listed and Conservation Area status of the parks, the combined effect of upstream floodwater and incoming tides, properties in different parts of the area having different chances of flooding, and the value local people place on the area to relax and unwind.
Many well-attended drop-in events clearly demonstrated that local people were keen to know more and work with us on the project wherever possible.
Homes in the area have been close to flooding four times in the last decade, so we talked to people about their flood risk and how we could reduce it.
We also discussed how we can do that in the most sensitive way possible and protect the special Edwardian character of the area’s parks, while still protecting those at risk from flooding.
And as the work moved on, further events have been held and regular newsletters distributed locally to keep people up-to-speed with developments.
Careful, detailed research and planning
The whole scheme is costing £11.5 million of taxpayers money and we had to be absolutely sure that the plan was the right one. One that protects people and property but at the same time leaves a park environment that will be enjoyed by many generations to come and help nature to thrive.
So, long before a shovel was put in the ground, a huge amount of detailed technical analysis, hydrological modelling and environmental research was carried out – as we do for every flood scheme we deliver.
We looked in detail at all the different options. These included dredging Roath Lake, creating flood storage areas upstream, dredging Roath Brook, building a bypass channel, installing tidal doors and using temporary defences.
This comprehensive investigation showed clearly that, to reduce flood risk for people in 60 properties in Alma Road and Cressy Road (known as Phase 3 of the project) the best option was to widen the stream at Roath Brook Gardens and Roath Mill Gardens so it can carry more water away from the area when floods threaten.
And our consultation also reaffirmed to us how important trees were to the character of the area and to people who use these parks.
As a result, we’ve been able to preserve many of the parks’ most spectacular and important trees by deliberately designing the flood scheme around them.
Unfortunately, for this phase of the project, we can’t avoid the need to remove 38 trees from Roath Brook and Mill Gardens.
This is regrettable, however, two-thirds of these (25) are defined by experts as poor quality, small and easy to replace, a danger to people or likely to die very soon due to old age and disease.
These will be replaced with 41 new trees, up to five metres tall, from a range of native and exotic species – retaining the Edwardian character of the parks for future generations to enjoy. A further 200 trees will also be planted in the wider community.
We understand people don’t want to see the trees removed. Trees are a hugely important part of our environment. They lock up carbon, provide a valuable home for wildlife and create areas where we can relax and enjoy nature.
And in the right numbers in the right places they can also help reduce flood levels. However in this case they would make virtually no difference to water levels here.
Getting the right balance
Fortunately, homes in this area have not yet been flooded. But they are at risk and we are not prepared to wait until flooding happens before providing them with the same level of protection as people in communities downstream such as Waterloo Gardens and beyond.
Flooding can devastate people’s lives and we have a responsibility to better protect at-risk communities across Wales.
So I’d like to reassure the people living in the area that the work to reduce their flood risk will continue.
And in a few years the park will be well on its way to re-establishing itself as a place where people can enjoy a babbling brook, a diversity of trees with a long life ahead of them and wildlife.
People living in the community can also be more confident that their homes and business will be better protected from the effects from flooding.
Then they will have a better chance of obtaining affordable home insurance and be able to sleep a little better when heavy rain or high tides threaten.
Balancing the conflicting demands of people, communities and their environment is never easy.
But we firmly believe that the project to reduce flood risk for people living near Roath Brook does that.
The end result will be that the local community will be better protected from flooding and the special Edwardian character of the parks will be kept for present and future generations to enjoy.
People concerned about flooding can check their flood risk, and find out if a free flood warning service is available in their area by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188 or by visiting www.naturalresources.wales/flooding.