York: The River Foss Information Page

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. To find out more about the Foss Barrier, visit the Foss Barrier Information Page.


The Groves to Strensall Flood Cells 

The Environment Agency’s planning application for the Strensall Flood Storage Area has recently been uploaded to City of York Council’s/Ryedale District Council’s (delete as appropriate) planning portal and can now be viewed using the following links:

CYC – Planning Ref No: 19/02463/FULM, https://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=Q19DIGSJ0F700&activeTab=summary   

Ryedale DC – Planning Ref No:19/01263/MFULEhttps://planningregister.ryedale.gov.uk/caonline-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=Q0UTCPNOMAE00&activeTab=summary

Using these links, you will now be able to make comments, either in support of, or objecting to, this application.  Ryedale District Coucil also provides a lot of helpful information about how to comment at the following site:


These three flood cells follow the Foss River upstream from the Foss Barrier, tending from The Groves neighbourhood in York to Strensall village on the northeastern edge of the city. The communities living in these flood cells were some of the most badly affected by the  Boxing Day floods in 2015.  This resulted from the wettest December on record, followed by further heavy rains. Flooding from this event also affected infrastructure and spilled onto Huntington Road, causing disruption on a busy main route into and out of the city centre.

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

Our assessment

The River Foss responds quickly to heavy rain and flooding in this catchment can often be very sudden. Whilst improvements to the Foss Barrier have reduced the risk of flooding for properties within the Foss Basin, the effects of the barrier weakens past the Heworth Green/Huntington Road roundabout.  This means that there are around 490 properties upstream from this roundabout at risk of flooding from the River Foss in these flood cells.

Our proposals

In order to reduce flood risk for homes and infrastructure such as roads in this area, we are proposing to build a flood storage area upstream of the Foss Barrier, north-east of Strensall village, between Walbutts House and East Lilling Grange Farm. 

More information about our proposals can be found by following the links below:

October 2019 event handout

October 2019 event display

Environmental Imapct Assessment non-technical  summary

The location of the proposed Flood Storage Area north of Strensall, near York. The black line in the inset map shows the approximate boundary of the area within the scheme but not the line of the embankment.  To see a more detailed map, please look on City of York Council's planning portal.

What is a Flood Storage Area?

A flood storage area is a piece of land which temporarily stores water during a flood.  Holding water back in this way effectively lowers the height of peak flows in the river, reducing flood risk for homes and businesses downstream.  Flood storage areas are usually dry and do not store water during normal weather conditions; they only store water for a short period of time during a flood. York already benefits from this type of flood storage area at Clifton Ings.

How will the Flood Storage Area work?

Under normal conditions the flood storage area will allow water in the Foss to flow through the line of the embankment and exit via a control structure without holding back water. It will only begin to restrict flood water during higher flows, filling the storage area. The stored water would then be released back into the Foss in a controlled manner after peak flows have passed. In the unlikely situation where water level rises to the top of the embankment in the flood storage area, a spillway would safely allow the flow to pass around the structure and go back into the river.


During a flood the storage area will be able to store  up to 1.1 million metres cubed of water over 111 hectares.

An example of an existing Flood Storage Area near Glasgow. 

Why we have opted for a flood storage scheme

In order to find the best solution to reduce flood risk along the Foss, we have considered various options such as flood walls and embankments along the river. However constructing traditional flood defenses such as walls in such a built up city catchment would be extremely difficult. It would cause enormous disruption (with flood walls needing to be up to 1.8 metres high and 4 kilometres long), be extremely expensive and require negotiation with all the landowners along the river banks. Building a flood storage area north-east of Strensall avoids these problems and offers other benefits as well:

  • It reduces flood risk for a large number of houses, including the village of Strensall
  • It will have minimal visual and access impacts due to the rural location of the storage area
  • It will create less disruption during construction and avoids road closures
  • Construction and maintenance costs are lower
  • It provides opportunities to create new areas of wetland, improving habitats for wildlife.

Why have we chosen this site for the flood storage area

This site meets some very specific requirements for a flood storage area. Firstly it’s located on the Foss and near enough to York to have an impact on water levels in the river within the city.  The shape of the land allows us to make use of a natural basin on the eastern side of the site, using higher ground west of the River Foss (green line on the map below) as a natural boundary, with an embankment constructed to the north, east and south of the river (the black line on the map below).  

We have carried out ground investigations to ensure that the land is suitable for building a flood storage area. These show that we can use materials excavated on site from the site to build the embankment. This will reduce the environmental impact of our work by reducing the amount of extra material we need to transport to the site.

Flood Storage Area Safety

The Foss flood storage area will meet the highest safety standards for reservoirs. This means it will 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 will still stay intact.

Under the Reservoir Act 1975, we must appoint an independent reservoir engineer specialist called a Panel Engineer to ensure design, construction and maintenance of the flood storage area all meet stringent 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

We have met with many different stakeholders as our plans have been developing, including local landowners, the Internal Drainage Board, conservation groups in the area and local residents in the parish councils around the site.

In September 2018, we held public drop-ins for residents in both Strensall and York to inform them of our proposals. More recently, we have held drop-ins at Strensall Village Hall, the Living Word Church on Huntington Road and Sheriff Hutton Village Hall to provide more information in advance of submitting our planning application to Ryedale District Council and City of York Council.

Timescales and Next Steps

We have submitted our plans to City of York Council and Ryedale District Council for planning approval in December 2019. All information that we submit for the planning application will be available to view and comment on both Councils' planning portals (details shown at teh top of this page).

Subject to planning and environmental approvals we aim to start construction in early 2020. 


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 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
  • 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