By Jim Greenhalf
A technique employed to install gas and sewage pipes in the street could be used to prevent flooding in parts of the Bradford Metropolitan District.
Drilling horizontal bore holes fifteen to twenty metres below ground and installing a particular kind of piping. A series of 100 pipes round Ilkley Moor, for example, could remove up to three billion gallons of water a year and, by re-routing it to existing natural water courses by means of gravity, could stop the town centre flooding after spells of prolonged rainfall.
The same technique employed in Menston could return Derry Hill, where Bradford Council wants to build 176 houses on two sites with a modern history of flooding, to the same condition it had for 100 years when Victorian pumping stations and reservoirs supplied High Royds Psychiatric Hospital and local homes and used up a lot of surplus water.
High Royds, built in 1888, was closed in 2003. Eight years later a new estate of 750 homes also called High Royds was built on the site.
Flooding in certain areas consists of rain and subterranean water that flows out of the ground, a combined phenomenon familiar to the residents of Menston and Ilkley.
The idea of horizontal boring for this purpose comes from Professor David Rhodes, the much-honoured micro-wave scientist, multi-millionaire businessman and long-time resident of Menston.
“Twenty years ago the technology wasn’t available; now that it is we should consider applying it and save ourselves billions of pounds,” he said.
Prof Rhodes outlined his “novel proposal” at a public meeting called by Menston Parish Council in April. Also in attendance were environmental experts from Leeds, York, Sheffield and Penrith.
He said that flood data provided by the Tuflow computer model, used by both the Government’s Environment Agency and Bradford Council, only dealt with the consequence of rainfall but not with the rate and volume of water coming out of the ground after the kind of persistent rain that afflicted areas of the North in November and December last year.
The online Aireborough Voice, which takes a close interest in planning matters, said local authorities, developers and Government agencies used Tuflow’s predictions to build flood defences that took no account of the volume of water coming out of the ground.
“The result – devastated lives and millions in insurance claims and repairs. One unfortunate village in Airedale did have this happen at Christmas from a new development they had opposed.”
Urban Echo understands that new residents of Wilsden, the village in question, have been advised that their homes are now worth only half of what they paid for them.
According to the Aireborough Voice, the computer model is used by experts, but they never ask why Tuflow and reality are so different.
“If they did they would find the geology and hydrology of Wharfedale, Airedale and Aireborough means that, basically, there is a lot of water in ‘them there hills’; water flowing at different rates, at different levels in the multi-layered gritstone, mudstone and coal bedrock.”
Two days after the Boxing Day flooding, when Storm Eva caused so much damage to homes, roads and businesses all over West Yorkshire, The Guardian newspaper quoted a general insurance consultant for the firm KPMG who thought the cost would exceed five billion pounds.
We all saw the pictures of Saltaire’s Roberts Park under more than a metre of water while the force of the overflowing River Aire, which swept into Lower Coach Road and Otley Road below Baildon Bridge, washed away cars, shipping containers of furniture, knocked down walls and fences and washed out the Nuffield Health Centre. More than 400 homes were affected in Bingley, Keighley and Ilkley. In Ilkley, water poured down from the Moor while the River Wharfe burst its banks, flowed across a football field and into gardens along Denton Road.
Three months after the waters subsided, the Aire in Shipley still contained a wrecked small Mercedes car and another vehicle that had been overturned by the force of the flood. Battered items of furniture and rags of plastic littered shrubs on both debris-strewn banks until volunteers started clearing up.
The cost of the damage is still being calculated but is bound to run into many millions. Shipley’s Nuffield Health Centre was shut until the end of January while parts of the building were dried out and new equipment and furniture were installed.
Prof Rhodes said a form of horizontal drilling was used by the Romans to clear water from mineral mines. The technique, commonplace in the construction of underground railways, just has not been applied to flooding – until now.
“I have told the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs about my proposal. They said they had their own new and exciting techniques – blocking slopes with boulders and lining river-banks with logs – and that if I wanted anything doing in this area I should contact Bradford Council,” he added.
Prof Rhodes, who estimates the cost of his proposal in the modest millions, told the Menston meeting that 54 millimetres of rain fell in 24 hours on Derry Hill on December 26. He showed pictures of a broad band of fast-flowing water running down the slope of the sites earmarked for housing.
“Another site in Bradford where houses were built flooded five times last year, with jets of water bursting through mortar,” he added. Home-owners in parts of Bingley saw the same damage to their property.
Prof Rhodes said constructing underground water detention basins to store surplus water was expensive and undesirable. Persistent rain would cause the basins to overflow and cause more flooding.
“You can’t have a site-specific solution once the problem has occurred. You have to do something to prevent surplus water from building up before it gets into rivers and streams,” he added.
Local authorities are under pressure from the Government to make green-field sites available for housing to accommodate the needs of the UK’s ever-growing population. The Government’s target is 200,000 new homes a year until 2020. Last year, according to the National House Building Council, about 195,000 came on stream.
Bradford Council wants 42,100 new homes in the next 15 years. The authority’s Local Area Plan was the subject of a hearing by Government planning inspector Stephen Pratt at Saltaire’s Victoria Hall in May.
Of more significance for Menston residents, however, is a hearing at London’s Court of Appeal in mid-July. Three High Court judges are to consider points of law on six grounds of appeal against a Judicial Review last year, which went against the residents.
Prof Rhodes said: “To get to this point took a lot of doing and cost the Menston Action Group a lot of money. It could have a profound effect on how planning conditions are interpreted in law in future, particularly the meaning of ‘sustainable drainage’ principles.
“The result could be of national importance. We only have to win one of the six points at issue to win. If we do it will mean that Bradford Council will have to reconsider the Derry Hill planning application in light of the court’s decision.”