York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) The River Foss Community Information Page

Closes 31 Dec 2021

Opened 1 Sep 2018


The purpose of this page is to provide information on how the Environment Agency aims to reduce the risk of flooding for homes and businesses along the River Foss in York, from the Groves to Strensall.

This page focuses on the following three flood cells located along the River Foss:

  • The Groves to Haley's Terrace
  • Haley's Terrace to the Link Road
  • The Link Road to Strensall

In addition to this, information about the South Beck Flood Cell and the Westfield Beck Flood Cell can be found at the bottom of this page.

The Foss Basin

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
These three flood cells cover the area along the Foss, from the Groves up to the village of Strensall on the outskirts of York. The community living alongside the River Foss was one of the most badly affected by the Boxing Day 2015 floods in York. The majority of the properties flooded were located close to the centre of York, although there was property flooding along the length of the river. There are a range of property types within this flood cell, and many houses have gardens backing directly onto the river. 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.

The Problem

Flooding of the scale experienced in 2015 had not been seen for a generation, and was the result of the wettest month on record followed by further heavy rains. Whilst the River Ouse generally responds slowly to rainfall in its catchment, the River Foss responds quickly to heavy rain and flooding can be sudden. There are around 300 properties at risk of flooding in these flood cells along the River Foss. Whilst improvements to the Foss Barrier has 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.

The Solution

Constructing flood defences along the River Foss could be problematic, as many households back directly onto the River Foss. 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 slow the flow of water and reduce the chance of flooding in York. This solution offers numerous benefits, including:

  • the solution is located in a single rural location  and can provide a benefit along the Foss
  • there is minimal visual and access impacts, compared to 4km of walls/embankments
  • avoids construction in peoples gardens/private land
  • lower construction and maintenance costs
  • less disturbance during construction and avoids road closures along main roads

This embedded 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 constructed 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 is north-east of Strensall, between Walbutts House and East Liling Grange Farm. This location allows us to utilise natural higher ground to the west of the River Foss (green line on map below), with an embankment constructed to the north, east and south of the river (black line on map below).

We have conducted ground investigations to ensure that the land is suitable for constructing a flood storage area. We will also investigate whether material on site is suitable for constructing the embankment, reducing the amount of extra material we would have to transport to site.

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 the vast majority of the time. When the flow increases, water will be throttled by the control structure and the storage area will start to fill.

Once river flows decrease, 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 reservoir safety standards. 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 4 times the flow we saw 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.

Timescales and Next Steps

October 2018 - April 2019: Detailed design of teh scheme

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

All information that we submit as part of 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 late 2019/early 2020.

The final decision to build the flood storage area is subject to planning approvals and Environment Agency financial approval.  

Engaging with the community

Our first step was to contact the 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 engaged with residents along the River Foss as well as the residents of 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 event was at The Living World Church on Huntington Road. Both of these events 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.

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

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

Next Steps

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

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 yorkfloodplan@environmentagency.gov.uk.

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
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  • 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