Slow The Flow Community Led Natural Flood Management Conference – March 2019

Over two days, nearly 100 people from around the UK descended onto our beautiful town of Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley to hear from Natural Flood Management (NFM) professionals about how communities can promote using natural techniques to reduce flood risk in our villages, towns and cities. 

Delegates from as far as Scotland, Lancaster, Somerset and Kent came to hear speakers from The National Flood Forum, Mersey Forest, The Environment Agency, 2B Landscape Consultancy, Calderdale Council and Slow The Flow to discuss and explore how the community can come together to take responsibility for the effects of the changing climate and the resulting changes in weather patterns.

View Conference Intro on YouTube

It is becoming clearer that NFM can play a significant part in reducing flood risk. From creating leaky dams in the woodland, to adopting Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in our towns, we can slow and redirect rain water to lower peak levels and reduce flood risk. 

Delegates also visited Hardcastle Crags (looked after by the National Trust) to see for themselves the work being carried out by volunteers to slow the flow.  To date, in excess of 400 leaky dams have been built throughout this area of natural beauty, and Slow The Flow Calderdale’s bespoke monitoring systems are proving them to be extremely effective at reducing the flood peak.  

At our final event at Hebden Picture House, the critically acclaimed film “High Water Common Ground” was accompanied by a Q+A session with film-maker Andy Clark.  There was also a short presentation on how the Picture House was restored after the 2015 flood. 

We filmed Saturday’s presentations in the hope that they will provide useful advice to other flooded communities that were unable to attend and who may find inspiration to use NFM to slow the flow in their own catchments.

Many thanks again to all our fantastic speakers, and to Mark Broadbent for the videos.

Click here for all speakers playlist on YouTube

Speakers videos:

Our sponsor and our Mayor Cllr Dr. Carol Stow introduced our NFM Conference at Hebden Bridge Town Hall. Mayor Carol Stow explained how after the floods, the community came together to prepare.

Cllr Josh Fenton-Glynn spoke about how flooding in Calderdale has had a dramatic impact on the communities, infrastructure and businesses. Calderdale Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority and has taken a lead in promoting Natural Flood Management with the appointment of an NFM Officer and developing a funded programme of works in the catchment. He gave insights into how voluntary organisations can engage effectively with their local authorities.

Slow The Flow Calderdale speakers:

Adrian Horton, Communications Officer explores how a small charitable organisation can make a significant difference to the local community by engaging with local groups, businesses and residents in a flood affected community.

Stuart Bradshaw Technical Officer then discusses the ongoing monitoring of the NFM scheme throughout Hardcastle Crags NT and how this can help to ensure NFM is considered as a tangible method to reduce flood risk.

Chris Uttley, Senior Advisor on Flood and Coastal Risk Management in the Integrated Outcomes Team at The Environment Agency

After four years working to reduce flood risk using Natural Flood Management techniques in the Stroud valleys, Chris has taken a role working as a Senior Advisor on Flood and Coastal Risk Management, working in the Integrated Outcomes team at the Environment Agency. The team works to find solutions to reducing flood risk that also help to achieve multiple objectives for the environment and society.

Chris guides us through the evolution of the pioneering Stroud Rural SuDS project which has inspired many other projects around the country including Slow the Flow Calderdale. He describes how the Stroud project aspired to develop an NFM culture with landowners and local communities and how flexible approaches and trust can help projects do more NFM. He also de-mystifies some of the practicalities around NFM.

Bill Blackledge and Amanda McDermott from 2B Landscape Consultancy present a ‘SWOT’ analysis of both urban Sustainable Drainage (SuDS) generally, and of Slow The Flow Calderdale’s award-winning ‘You Can Slow The Flow’ information project.

Managing storm water through Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) offers many advantages over traditional underground schemes, in terms of water quality, biodiversity and cost-effectiveness.

‘Soft SuDS’, such as swales and balancing ponds, offer green solutions that can create exciting new landscapes, to benefit both people and wildlife. 

Wendy Brooks, National Strategy Manager at The Environment Agency

Wendy Brooks is leading the Environment Agency’s strategy on flood and coastal erosion risk management in England.

The Environment Agency has taken a new approach to developing the latest Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy. Wendy was speaking to us before its publication, and so we cannot show her full presentation, but we hope you will be moved to action by the infographic animation she opened with.

Mike Norbury, NFM Manager at The Mersey Forest Team presents various schemes he has been involved in using Natural Flood Management around the north of England.

Questions explored include: How are the benefits of the NFM measures quantified? How do we build measures in such a way that they last, and become a living part of the natural landscape? Can the overall benefits of NFM be defined and understood at catchment-scale? What have been the NW lessons learned from measures that have been installed?

With a background in research, Mike has worked for local authorities, the Environment Agency and currently Mersey Forest where he has helped to initiate and implement a wide range of natural flood measures working with communities across the North West: Including St. Helens, Ellesmere Port (Rivacre Valley), Northwich, Bolton (Smithills) and elsewhere. Mike has been directly involved in the design and build of over 40 Runoff Attenuation Features (RAFs) in various catchments.

Paul Cobbing – CEO at The National Flood Forum discusses his role at the National Flood Forum and how he supports groups such as Slow The Flow Calderdale.

The National Flood Forum is a charity dedicated to assisting individuals who have been affected by flooding and to guiding legislation related to flooding. The Forum, supported by Flood Re, has launched a ‘Let’s Talk About Flooding’ campaign. The events bring people together to share experiences and to identify the issues that they would like the national conference to address, the things that could really change peoples’ lives in the future.