York to replace Foss flood defence pumps after Boxing Day failure | Environment

The Environment Agency has said it intends to replace all water pumps around York months after the failure of one led to flooding in large swaths of the city.

Eight pumps capable of dealing with 30% more water are to be installed over the next 20 months, the agency said.

The £13m project also includes the building of a control centre to replace the one constructed 30 years ago. The local MP, Rachael Maskell, said the work would signal a new beginning for the city and that “the lessons from past mistakes have finally been learned”.

She pointed out that historically, York city council refused permission for a taller control centre, mostly on the grounds of aesthetics, but that councillors later approved the building of a large Novotel hotel nearby.

Furthermore, it was known as long ago as 2004 that the pumps on the river Foss would not be able to cope with future risk, the Labour MP said, adding: “I’m hoping that moving forward there will be proper, joined-up dialogue between the various agencies – the Environment Agency, the council, Yorkshire Water, and fire and rescue.”

Householders and businesses suffered millions of pounds worth of damage when floodwater from the Foss swept through the city.

Environment Agency engineers raised the Foss barrier when the pumps were overwhelmed. Although 600 homes were flooded as a result, the agency insisted that three times that number of properties would have been under water had it not done so.

Tony Andryszewski, its technical manager of flood warning, said the new pumps would be able to handle more than 40 tonnes of water a second. This compares with the estimated 35 tonnes a second that was entering the pumping station on Boxing Day.

The project is expected to begin in April. “We will ensure that the barrier remains fully operational throughout the works,” said Andryszewski.

Maskell said the upgrade of York’s flood defences would be a huge relief to residents. She added: “I am really glad that the Environment Agency has knuckled down and got this moving really quickly.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We plan to replace the pumps in August so that the pumps are all upgraded by September.

“We will replace them in sequence to ensure we maintain as a minimum the current pumping capacity. We will also have temporary pumps on site ready to use.”

He added: “We can ensure that should a similar event occur to that of December then the barrier and pumps will readily cope. We will also be looking at other flood mitigation options on the river Foss such as storage, land management and flow controls to try and manage the flow coming into the Foss reducing the need for more pumping.

“With flood risk it’s impossible to say that a scheme would not be overwhelmed if it is tested beyond its design capacity.”