Houghton Brook Flood Storage Area Information Page

Closes 30 Apr 2022

Opened 3 Oct 2018

Overview

Updated 19 March 2021

Please use this page to find out the latest information for our Houghton Brook Flood Storage Area.

Project progress

We are delighted to announce that our flood storage area on the Houghton Brook is now operational, reducing the risk of flooding to around 600 residential and commercial properties in Luton, as well as key roads and other infrastructure.

Over the past 10 months we have:

  • built an earth embankment that will hold 140,000 cubic metres, or 56 Olympic swimming pools, of water during times of heavy rain, but will otherwise remain dry
  • built a new cycle path around the site and new footpaths along the Houghton Brook
  • carefully moved this stretch of the Houghton Brook through the flood storage area, enhancing it’s rare chalk stream characteristics
  • planted native trees, grassland and wildflowers, and put in new benches and information boards
  • created an attractive feature within the new parkland as part of the wider Linmere development

Below are some photos of the new flood storage area and river channel:

Above: Downstream control structure (left) and embankment with spillway (right)

Above: Realigned channel facing downstream with new trees planted on the left hand bank

Above: Aerial photo taken by a drone over the site

Time lapse footage of construction

This video and other project information can also be seen on Luton Borough Council's website here.

The Houghton Brook Flood Storage Area (FSA)

Central Bedfordshire Council granted planning permission for the construction of the Flood Storage Area in December 2019.

Our objectives of the scheme are:

  1. to reduce the risk of flooding to people and property along the Houghton Brook and River Lea in Luton
  2. to create a better place for people and wildlife that is more resilient to the impacts of flooding and climate change
  3. to work with local communities to improve their understanding of flooding, how it impacts them and how they can be more prepared.

Funding

The total cost of this project is £8.5 million and it is funded by Defra, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, SEMLEP Local Growth Fund and Luton Borough Council.

Below is a summary of our scheme

Why are we doing this work?

Luton has a long history of flooding from the River Lea and its tributaries, in particular where the Houghton Brook joins the River Lea around Toddington Road. In 2007, Luton Central Fire Station, the A6, local roads and Wardown Park were all impacted by flooding.

Our project will benefit approximately 600 residential and commercial properties who will have improved protection from flooding in Luton, as well as key roads and other infrastructure.

In order to reduce flood risk, our project involves building a flood storage area (FSA). The FSA is designed to fill and hold water at times of heavy rainfall, when river levels are high, and to allow water to drain away slowly into the Houghton Brook as river levels reduce. The FSA will consist of an earth embankment to hold back water. Another structure will control the water flowing out of the FSA. By controlling the flow, water is stored in the FSA, reducing the risk of flooding to areas downstream.

We have also allowed for space in the FSA for some surface water runoff from the surrounding area. This is water that collects during heavy rainfall on impermeable surfaces like concrete and paving. After heavy rainfall you may see water collecting in smaller attenuation ponds within the main FSA.

It is important to note the scheme will not eliminate the risk of the flooding for all residents in Luton. Please consider the steps you can take to be more resilient to flooding, this may include:

  • ensuring you are signed up to our free Flood Warning Service, and understanding what to do for each level of warning
  • working with your neighbours to create a community flood plan so you know who may be able to help a venerable resident in times of flood
  • gathering essential items in a personal flood kit so you are ready to respond

For more information visit our webpage at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/flooding-planning-managing-and-recovering-from-a-flood.

Engaging with communities

Unfortunately, subject to current Government restrictions we will not be holding any public engagement events. We will be using this webpage as our primary way to keep you informed. We are always keen to receive your feedback and answer your questions so please do get in touch at the address below. We will also work with our partner, Luton Borough Council, to contact people who will directly benefit from a reduced risk of flooding in Luton.

Houghton Brook environmental improvements

The Houghton Brook will be an attractive green corridor with public open space and recreational areas, creating a better place for people and wildlife. Occasionally, when there is water in the storage area, this will form quite a large water body. This will naturally and safely drain away into the Houghton Brook. Other smaller areas of water will fill after heavy rainfall and these may stand for a longer time, providing additional habitat.

We have incorporated species rich grassland and meadows will increase the number of important plant species, with most flowers in bloom over the summer months. Many other species, such as bumble bees, butterflies, birds and bats, will benefit. We will also be planting a variety of native trees and shrubs which will create pockets of improved habitat for birds and insects, and ensure that over time the landscape improves as the trees start to mature and grow tall.

As part of our commitment to provide environmental improvements to the Houghton Brook, we are replacing some large concrete outfall headwalls in the area. These will be replaced by smaller brick headwalls (similar to the image below but using blue bricks) in the same location. Replacing the headwalls will bring long-term environmental and visual improvements to the Houghton Brook. Smaller headwalls will be installed in line with the river bank and gravel will be spread along the river bed to improve the river flow. We will plant locally appropriate flora around the new headwalls to support important wildlife, including insects, along the river bank. These works will take place at three locations outside our main site compound so residents will see fencing and operations further along the Houghton Brook but the footpath will remain open.

We are currently investigating the opportunity to reuse spare soil from the site to create the platform for future sports pitches which will be part of the Linmere development, rather than have to transport this material away from the site. This may include a variation to our current planning application.

Footpath and Cycleway

We have created a new public Right of Way and footpath around the flood storage area to accommodate the embankment. Permanent lighting has been installed along the Right of Way.

Working during COVID-19

We are continuing to deliver all of our Flood Risk Management projects in line with government advice, where it is safe for our teams and delivery partners to do so. We are following the latest guidance from Public Health England regarding safe working on construction sites. The safety of our staff, partners and the communities we work in remains a priority for us.

Flood Resilience

It is important to note the scheme will not eliminate the risk of the flooding for all residents in Luton. Please consider the steps you can take to be more resilient to flooding, this may include:

  • ensuring you are signed up to our free Flood Warning Service, and understanding what to do for each level of warning
  • working with your neighbours to create a community flood plan so you know who may be able to help a venerable resident in times of flood
  • gathering essential items in a personal flood kit so you are ready to respond

Visit our website here to find out more about what you can do to reduce the impact of flooding on you and your property.

Find out about your rights and responsibilities of owning a watercourse here.

View our schedule of maintenance work on the River Lee here.

Audiences

  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • Local authorities
  • Environmental bodies
  • Land owners
  • Water companies
  • Members of the public
  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Community groups
  • Flood action groups
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities
  • Local Risk Management Authorities
  • Flood Resilience Forums
  • Members of the public
  • Town and parish councils

Interests

  • Flood management
  • Habitats and wildlife