In June 2000, almost thirty hours of continuous rain caused the River Calder to burst its banks, flooding the town. Approximately eighty families had to be evacuated from their homes, whilst several drivers had to be rescued from cars stranded by the flood waters and hundreds took refuge in public buildings.
The £13m Lower Todmorden and Walsden Flood Alleviation Scheme Phase 3 will drastically improve the standards of flood defence in the area, reducing the risk of damage to homes and properties in Todmorden.
The first two phases of the scheme were designed to reduce the risk of flooding to properties from the River Calder and were completed in 2007. Works included flood storage areas at Centre Vale Park and Millwood and the construction of new flood walls along Sackville Street, River Street, Key Syke Lane, Commercial Street and Hall Royd Crescent.
Construction of Phase 3 began in early 2011 and will see main contractor VolkerStevin construct a 500m long flood wall between Shade Primary School and the Morrisons supermarket. The wall will be built in sections, with heights ranging from 1.2m to 2.8m. In addition, the existing culverts will be repaired and flap valves fitted to the pipes discharging into the Walsden Water to prevent flood water backflowing into the surface drains.
Project Manager at the Environment Agency, Will Benedikz, said: “To date we have installed approximately 60% of the flap valves within the culverts and we will be installing the remaining valves next summer when we are able to work in the watercourse again.
“In addition, we have installed 23m of twin concrete box culvert under the Market Hall to protect the existing culvert structure from the increased volume of water resulting from the improved standard of defence.
“We are currently constructing the stone headwall at the downstream end of the culvert. Weather permitting, this section of work will be completed by Christmas.”
Todmorden has a rich industrial history and through the years, the streams from the surrounding hills provided water for corn, cotton and fulling mills. As a result, several of the existing culverts are hundreds of years old.
The land immediately south of the Morrisons supermarket was part of the previous site of Waterside Mill. This is of archaeological importance as in 1829 it was purported to include the largest weaving shed in the world, housing 800 power looms.
An initial excavation has allowed West Yorkshire Archaeological Service to record any findings. These have included foundations, walls, mill goits and cobbled courtyards. The area will now become part of the new access road for deliveries to the supermarket.
Throughout the project, the Environment Agency has worked closely with local community groups and both Calderdale MBC and Todmorden Town Council. There is a large number of public interest groups in Todmorden – including Incredible Edible Todmorden, Todmorden Civic Society, Todmorden in Bloom and Todmorden Pride – and each of these have been consulted throughout the construction process.
The Environment Agency and partner companies VolkerStevin and Halcrow have worked with the planning authority and public interest groups to reduce the visual impact of the works. This has included working with the community to develop landscaping plans for the reinstatement of the working areas, whilst the flood defence features stone cladding over the concrete wall to sympathise with the surrounding area.
Will Benedikz said: “Works are progressing well, although we have been hampered by the weather whilst working in the culverts. The increased depth of water in the channel has meant that we have been unable to continue working in order to protect the workforce.
“As we are working in a constrained site within an urban environment, the project has of course created impacts. However, one of the most important aspects of the scheme is the level of community engagement. We believe that this will be the key to success.”