The River Foss Flood Cells

Closes 31 Dec 2021

Opened 1 Sep 2018


This page provides information on the flood cells on the River Foss and its tributaries: 

The Lower Foss

Improvements to the Foss Barrier have significantly reduced the risk of flooding for the area of York between The Groves and the confluence of the River Foss and River Ouse (Foss Basin). We are therefore considering the Foss Basin as a separate area for this project.

The Groves to Strensall Flood Cells
Three separate flood cells cover the area along the Foss, from The Groves up to the village of Strensall, on the outskirts of York. The communities living in these flood cells were some of the most badly affected by the 2015 Boxing Day floods in York.  The majority of properties that flooded were located close to the centre of York, although there was also property flooding along the length of the river.  Many houses in this area have gardens backing directly onto the river, providin a route for flood water. Huntington Road floods on a regular basis, causing disruption to a busy route into and out of York City Centre.

The three flood cells directly alongside the River Foss in York.

Our assessment

There are around 300 properties at risk of flooding in these flood cells along the River Foss. Flooding of the scale experienced in 2015 was the result of the wettest December on record followed by further heavy rains. Whilst the River Ouse generally responds slowly to rainfall, the River Foss responds quickly to heavy rain and flooding can be very sudden. Whilst improvements to the Foss Barrier have reduced the risk of flooding for many properties within the Foss Basin, the effects of the barrier weakens past the Heworth Green/Huntington Road roundabout.  This means that there are many properties upstream of this roundabout that are therefore still at a high risk of flooding.

Our proposal

Constructing flood defences along the River Foss would be extremely problematic, as it would involve getting agreements from all landowners who had land next to the river. Building flood walls would therefore be impractical and another solution is required. We are proposing to build a flood storage area north of Strensall at Walbutts Farm to store and slow the flow of flood water and so reduce the risk of flooding in York. This solution offers numerous benefits, including:

  • the solution is located in a single rural location  and can provide benefits for many households along the Foss and including teh village of Strensall
  • there are minimal visual and access impacts, compared to building four kilometres of walls/embankments
  • it avoids construction in people's gardens or on private land
  • it has lower construction and maintenance costs
  • it results in less disturbance during construction and avoids road closures along main roads

The PDF below highlights the difficulties of constructing flood walls along the River Foss. The schematic diagram shows the height the flood wall would have to be built to in certain sections, and the visual impact this would have. The two maps display how flood walls would have to be constructed in people's gardens along the River Foss. It is for these reasons that we not proposing to construct flood walls along the Foss and instead are proposing a Flood Storage Area. 

Your browser does not support inline PDF viewing.Please download the PDF.


The location we are proposing for the flood storage area is north-east of Strensall, between Walbutts House and East Lilling Grange Farm. This location allows us to utilise higher ground to the west of the River Foss (green line on the map below), with an embankment constructed to the north, east and south of the river (the black line on the map below).

We have conducted ground investigations to ensure that the land is suitable for constructing a flood storage area. We are also investigating whether material on site is suitable for constructing the embankment; if this is the case, it will reduce the amount of extra material we would have to transport to site. to build the embankment.

The location of the proposed Flood Storage Area north of Strensall, near York.

What is a Flood Storage Area?

A flood storage area is a piece of land which temporarily stores water during a flood and reduces peak flows downstream, thus reducing flood risk. Flood storage areas are usually empty during normal day to day life and only store water during a flood event. York already benefits from a flood storage area at Clifton Ings.

How will the Flood Storage Area work?

During normal flows, the river Foss will flow freely through the storage area and exit through a control structure (outlet). This means the storage area will remain dry and empty for the vast majority of the time. When the flow increases, water will be held back by the control structure and the storage area will start to fill with flood water.

Once flow levels in river start to decline, the storage area will continue to release water at a controlled rate. If the storage area becomes full, water will start to safely spill out of the storage area via a spillway. At this point the storage area will no longer provide a benefit downstream.

Our current estimate for the storage capacity upstream of Strensall is between 700,000 – 800,000m3.

An example of an existing Flood Storage Area near Glasgow. 

Flood Storage Areas Safety

The Foss flood storage area will be designed to the highest safety standards for reservoirs. This means it will have to be designed as if it permanently stores water, even though this won’t be the case. It will also be designed to withstand unprecedented flooding - should there be roughly four times the flow seen on Boxing Day, it would still stay intact.

Under the Reservoir Act 1975, we are required to appoint an independent reservoir engineer specialist called a Panel Engineer to ensure design, construction and maintenance all meet safety standards. The Environment Agency currently own and operate over 200 reservoirs and are familiar with the requirements to build and maintain a flood storage area.

Engaging with the community

Our first step was to contact landowners to gain permission to construct the flood storage area on their land. We have also met with the Internal Drainage Board and representatives of conservation groups in the area.

In September 2018 we held events for residents living along the River Foss as well as residents in Strensall, close to where we are planning to construct the flood storage area. Our first event was held  at Strensall Village Hall  and the second was at The Living World Church on Huntington Road. Both of these were public drop-ins where we displayed our proposals for reducing the risk of flooding along the River Foss. We invited visitors to come and find out what’s happening, ask us questions and raise any concerns.

Further drop-ins will be held later this year to provide updates on our plans.

We have also met with Strensall with Towthorpe parish council and Lillings Ambo parish council to present our proposals and answer questions.

Timescales and Next Steps

October 2018 - April 2019: Detailed design of teh scheme

We are currently working on the initial design of the scheme. Once this is completed we will consult with communities and submit a planning application in the autumn of 2019.

All information that we submit for the planning application will be available to view on City of York Council’s planning portal.

Subject to planning and environmental approvals we aim to start construction in early 2020.  The final decision to build the flood storage area is subject to planning approvals and Environment Agency financial approval.  


The South Beck Flood Cell

We have undertaken detailed modelling assessments of the flood risk for the South Beck flood cell and these have informed potential flood intervention options for the cell.

The South Beck Flood Cell shown in blue

Timescales and Next Steps

We will be engaging with the local community on proposals in the late summer 2019.


The Westfield Beck Flood Cell

Our records show there is a risk of flooding to properties in this area. We will be investigating this risk in more detail and looking at potential flood defence options to mitigate the impact of the risk flooding. We will be engaging with local residents before any proposals are taken forward.

The Westfield Beck Flood Cell shown in red

Timescales and Next Steps

We will be engaging with the local community on proposals in spring 2019.


The Tang Hall and Osbaldwick Beck Flood Cells

From our modelling and experience from recent floods we have produced initial assessments of the risk of flooding to properties in the area. We have identified a number of options which will be assessed further before we engage with the local community.

Next Steps

We have completed a detailed assessment of options and will be engaging with the local community on proposals in spring 2019.

The Osbaldwick Beck Flood Cell shown in red

The Tang Hall Beck Flood Cell shown in blue

This page is for information purposes only and is not part of a consultation.

We will update this page with information throughout the year. If you would like to provide feedback on the proposals, or have any questions, please contact us at

We are also keen to understand whether on-line Information Pages are useful to you, and if this method for keeping you informed is successful.

We very much welcome your feedback on information pages and your feedback will help us to keep improving.

If you would like to give us some feedback please click on the link or download and return the feedback form below.

Give us your feedback


  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Statutory organisations
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • District and parish councils
  • Land owners
  • RFCCs
  • Community groups
  • Flood action groups
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities
  • Local Risk Management Authorities
  • Internal Drainage Boards


  • Flood management