York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) Information page

Closes 31 Dec 2023

Opened 30 Apr 2018


The York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) is funded by the UK Government with the aim of reducing the risk of flooding to homes and businesses in York. We have created this page to provide easy access to information on the scheme. We will keep updating it as we progress individual projects within the scheme so please keep checking for what’s new.

Up-to-date information about road and footpath closures and upcoming events are also available on our Facebook (@YorkFAS) and Twitter (@EnvAgencyYNE) pages.

We issue a quarterly city-wide newsletter which highlights our recent progress and any upcoming public engagement events. You can read the September 2021 newsletter by clicking on the link here. To request this newsletter in an accessible format, or to be added to the mailing list for this newsletter, please email us.

If you would like to discuss any of our schemes in person, our Community Hub on Wellington Row (YO1 6HY) is open to the public on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10am to 4pm.

More Information,

November 2021

We are working hard with Government and other emergency responders to protect the public and the environment from the effects of Coronavirus. Since March 2020 the Environment Agency has remained fully operational, with the majority of our staff working from home.

The team delivering the York Flood Alleviation Scheme have continued to make progress with our goal to reduce flood risk for 2000 homes and businesses in York.  We have worked closely with our contractors to ensure that planned construction work has continued throughout the pandemic. 

After a period when we were unable to meet members of the public or hold meetings, we are now starting to return to more normal working routines. We have put in place procedures to protect staff and visitors and reopened the Community Flood Hub on Wellington Row in York city centre.

We continue to monitor the York Flood Plan mailbox and respond to any correspondence sent to this address. However, you will appreciate that working from home has its challenges. Please accept our assurance that we are doing all we can to ensure work continues as much as is possible, and that delays caused by the knock-on effects of this pandemic are kept to an absolute minimum. 

During this time, we recommend that anyone interested in finding out more about the scheme signs up to our electronic mailing list. You can do this by sending your name and details of the areas you're interested in to yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk


Background to the York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS)

Situated on low-lying land where the River Foss joins the River Ouse, the city of York has always been prone to flooding. In recent years, however, the onset of climate change  along with changes in the way land is managed upstream have caused these floods to become more severe. This was evident in December 2015, when we experienced the wettest calendar month since records began and over 620 homes and many businesses in York were flooded.

Flooding in York city centre

After this traumatic event, the government allocated an additional £45 million to the Environment Agency to better protect 2,000 homes from flooding within the city’s administrative boundaries. This funding is in addition to the £38 million investment made to refurbish and upgrade the Foss Barrier.

In recent decades, York has witnessed severe flood events in 2000 and 2015. An article has recently been published recalling the floods of 2000 and is available to read here.

Existing flood defenses for York have been built over many years and no longer provide the level of protection needed to deal with increased volumes of water. With this additional funding, the York FAS can make improvements to reduce the risk of flooding for many residents and businesses in York.  However, we must recognise that flooding is a natural phenomenon that cannot always be prevented and that the funding granted to us will not stop flooding in all parts of the city.  We cannot keep building ever higher walls to keep the water out.  Instead what we must do is manage water better by building flood defenses where they are most effective and find ways to alleviate the impact of flooding where it is not possible to build these ‘hard’ defenses.  We must also look at the river catchment (the area from which a river draws its water supply) as a whole to find new ways to store water upstream, lowering peak flows during flood events and so reducing the impact of flooding on the city.  The York Flood Alleviation Scheme seeks to do all of these.

How we develop flood risk schemes in York

In those parts of the city seriously affected by flooding, we are working hard to identify solutions that are environmentally and socially acceptable as well as being technically feasible and affordable.  Currently we are carrying out work in 18 flood cells (a flood cell is defined as an area where the flood risk can be addressed independently of the areas up and downstream). Each flood cell that we work in has its own characteristics and complexities; there are often many factors to consider that influence or constrain the choice of solution.

The map below shows all 18 flood cells where we are working with City of York Council to determine the best way to deal with flooding.

A map showing the York Flood Alleviation Scheme flood cells

View a larger version of this map

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The North Street flood defences in action during the February 2020 flooding
This flood cell is situated between Scarborough Bridge and Ouse Bridge on the right bank of the River Ouse. Historically, water from the River Ouse has flooded North Street and adjacent properties.  The area is mostly occupied by businesses, and forms part of the main north-south cycle route through the centre of York.

We first built flood defences on North Street in the early 1990s. These came close to being overtopped in the 2000 and 2015 floods. As part of the York 5 Year Plan, we have improved these defences to make them more resilient to climate changes. We have:

  • Raised the flood wall and replaced all the flood gates gates on North Street;
  • Installed demountable flood barriers at two entrances to Memorial Gardens;
  • Built a new flood wall and embankment between War Memorial Gardens and Leeman Road;
  • Widened the flood gate at the upper end of North Street Gardens to improve access to the riverside;
  • Waterproofed the car park under the Park Inn and our Community Flood Hub building; and
  • Installed a bigger, stronger flood gate under Lendal Bridge.

In May 2021 we started work to replace the Lendal Bridge flood gate.  This work was due to be completed by the end of July 2021, however, there was a delay because the construction team found a previously unidentified, large concrete slab directly over the top of two high voltage power cables owned by National Power Grid (NPG).  In order to remove these concrete slabs, the team needed to be accompanied by representatives from NPG, who had limited availability at the time. On 19 November 2021, the scheme was completed and Wellington Row road was reopened.

These works now provide better flood protection for 39 homes and businesses.

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Skeldergate during the February 2020 floods

This flood cell is situated between Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge on the right bank of the River Ouse. During a flood, Skeldergate can become submerged and there is a risk that properties on either side could be flooded.

There are no formal flood defences in this area. Many of the properties here are designed to cope with flooding on the ground floor, or have already installed Property Flood Resilience (PFR) Measures.

Our final Options Appraisal Report has identified PFR as the most suitable option for this area. For a variety of complicated reasons, we are not able to build ‘hard’ defenses (flood walls) in this location.

This year (2021) we will be in touch with all eligible homeowners in this area to offer a free PFR survey. The survey is to assess the suitability of the property for PFR and what measures would be most effective. Should the homeowner wish to proceed, we are offering to fit up to £7,500 worth of adaptations in their property free of charge, and they will be invited to meet the contractors and see these products for themselves.

Please see the section on PFR at the bottom of this page for details of our criteria for eligibility to the scheme and available funding.

In May 2020, we published a Skeldergate newsletter explaining what the PFR scheme is, including the 10 steps in the PFR process. 

In June 2020, we hosted a virtual public meeting on Zoom to share our plans with residents in the Skeldergate area, and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Access a summary and Q&A from this event, or view a recording of the meeting on our YouTube channel.

If you cannot access these documents, you can request them in another format by emailing us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

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View of King's Staith from Ouse Bridge

This flood cell is situated between Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge on the left bank of the River Ouse. This is one of the first areas in the city to flood. There are no formal flood defences in this area but some properties have already installed Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures.

Businesses here, such as the riverside pubs, depend on views and access to the river so building high flood defence walls would not be appropriate. So it is not possible for us to provide the same level of protection against flooding at King’s Staith as elsewhere in the city.

We are currently assessing whether the PFR measures we can offer would better protect properties in this area from flooding. 

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View of Terry Avenue in Clementhorpe

This flood cell is situated between Skeldergate Bridge and Rowntree Park on the right bank of the River Ouse. It includes a number of riverside flats which are at risk of flooding. These overlook Terry Avenue, which forms a popular route for cyclists, pedestrians and those accessing the Caravan Club site, Roomzzz Hotel and Rowntree Park. These three amenities are located within a designated floodplain and so under normal circumstances will flood. The only formal flood defence here is the flood wall at the end of Lower Darnborough Street. However, there are still properties at risk of flooding that can benefit from government funding for a scheme.

To reduce this risk to properties in the area we are:

  • Raising the corners of the existing boundary walls at Postern Close and install new flood defences between Postern Close and Postern House; 
  • Installing a new flood gate on Clementhorpe, at the junction with Terry Avenue; 
  • Constructing a flood wall in front of Waterfront House; 
  • Installing a new flood wall and raise the road level at Dukes Wharf; 
  • Constructing a new flood wall to link into the newly improved defences, completed by Roomzzz Hotel, on Lower Ebor Street; 
  • Raising the height of the existing flood defence walls and construct an earth embankment on the boundary of Rowntree Caravan Park; 
  • Constructing an embankment and short wall along the boundary of Rowntree Park to link into high ground;
  • Constructing an underground flood defence along Terry Avenue which is approximately 240 metres long, known as “seepage mitigation”. This is a semi-permeable underground barrier to limit the amount of flood water that can pass under, overground flood defences.

 An illustration of the works for the Clementhorpe Flood Alleviation Scheme

The Environment Agency received approval in February 2021 to start work on this scheme.  Construction began on 1 March 2021 and is expected to take 18 months to complete. From Monday, 17 May 2021, a section of Terry Avenue has been closed to the public for approximately 12 months. This road closure runs from Skeldergate Bridge, heading south down Terry Avenue, stopping just before the entrance to Dukes Wharf.  Detailed information about the diversion routes for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as the estimated traffic numbers and our information on working hours on site, is available in our  Construction traffic management plan.  You can find the map of the diversion routes here.

When this work is completed, it will better protect 135 homes from flooding.

We held an online public event in September 2020 which provided details of the impact that construction will have on the community. You can access a summary and Q&A from this event, or view a recording on our YouTube channel. 

Our latest Clementhorpe newsletter was published in November 2021 and is attached here.

If you cannot access any of these documents, you can request a copy in another format by emailing us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

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This area forms the southern portion of Clementhorpe where there are no formal flood defences.

Following our thorough appraisal of the options available, we have decided to include South Bank in our Property Flood Resilience (PFR) scheme. We are offering to fit adaptations up to £7,500 per property, free of charge, to properties at risk of flooding in the area. Our contractors JBA, have carried out initial free surveys of individual homes. We are now finalising contracts with our suppliers to install PFR measures in those homes that qualify for this benefit.

Please see the section on PFR at the bottom of this page for details of our criteria for eligibility to the scheme and available funding.

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The cycle/pedestrian path which runs the length of New Walk

This area includes New Walk, part of the Fulford Ings and the northern end of the village of Fulford. The riverside path in this flood cell floods frequently, with flood water spreading beyond the path during more extreme events. 

There are no formal flood defences in this area, although there are retaining walls in some locations that may act as informal defences. Property Flood Resilence (PFR) has been determined as the most viable option to better protect properties in this flood cell.

55 individual property surveys for PFR have been completed and are being assessed. Unfortunately, this work has been subjected to a number of unforeseeable delays due to Covid-19. We are currently working with our contractors to progress as much as is possible whilst Covid-19 restrictions are in place. We have started work installing PFR measures whilst adhering to government guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Please see the section on PFR at the bottom of this page for details of our criteria for eligibility to the scheme and available funding.

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A birds-eye view of Clifton Ings during the September 2012 flooding

Latest updates

We produce regular updates on the Clifton Ings Flood Alleviation Scheme to provide information about what's happening on this site and what changes you might see if you visit it. You can find the November update for this scheme here and the August one here.

December 2021: Tree maintenance on Clifton Ings

As part of a programme of routine maintenance, from the middle of December 2021 the Environment Agency will start carrying out work to manage trees along the Sustrans Route 65 on Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Ings.  This will take approximately two weeks to complete.  It is necessary to ensure the safety of visitors using this route, following routine inspections and recent high winds. Some trees will just need unsafe and overhanging branches removed but in other cases we may need to fell individual trees; each one has been assessed before work starts so that we can carry out this task as safely and efficiently as possible.

We will not close the main path on both Clifton and Rawcliffe Ings but staff will be on site who will co-ordinate and direct pedestrians and cyclists at particular points where work is happening.  If you visit the site and are asked to follow instructions, please respect them; it’s for your own safety.

This programme of work is not connected to the Clifton Ings Flood Alleviation Scheme, although taking place on the same site.

A description of the site and the work being carried out

This flood cell is located between the Outer Ring Road and Clifton Bridge on the left bank of the River Ouse.  It is largely residential but also covers an extensive area of flood plain meadow that is a much loved greenspace, used by both residents and visitors. It also contains Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where rare meadow grassland species and the critically endangered tansy beetle are found. 

As part of the York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS), we are investing £21 million of government funding on a programme of work to improve flood defences in this area. When this scheme is completed, it will better protect 135 homes from future flooding. It will also reduce the risk of flood water spilling on to Shipton Road, keeping an important transport route into the city open and protecting local businesses as well.

What the scheme will deliver

In 2019 we were granted planning permission by City of York Council to:

  • Raise the height of the barrier bank and widen its footprint, increasing the bank’s stability;
  • Extend the barrier bank at the northern end into Rawcliffe Country Park and at the southern end into Homestead Park;
  • Install a new pumping station for Blue Beck, to pump water from the beck into the Ings when the Blue Beck storage area is full.

What's happening now

Construction of this scheme started in September this year (2021) and will finish by the end of 2023.  The work is divided into three phases:

Phase one: Autumn/Winter 2021          

Initial enabling works and building an alternative Sustrans cycle track.

Phase two: Spring to Autumn 2022     

Raising the height of the existing embankment, extending it at the south eastern end, near Homestead Park, and building a new pumping station for Blue Beck.

Phase three: Spring to Autumn 2023   

Completing the raising of the existing embankment, building the northern extension of it in Rawcliffe Country Park and carrying out habitat restoration work.


The first phase of construction

Our contractors, BAM Nuttall, have created a new access point from Shipton Road into the site and installed a temporary compound in what is known as the cornfield.  They will also build a road on the site for construction vehicles so that the main phase of earthworks can begin early next year. In November 2021 they started building a new section of the Sustrans cycle track, in preparation for the diversion of the old one once work starts in Rawcliffe Meadows in 2022. This work will continue over the winter until spring next year.

Minimising the impacts of our work

We have designed this scheme very carefully to minimise impacts for residents, visitors to the site and wildlife.

Changes in access to the site

Throughout the construction period, most of the site will remain open and visitors will be able to travel from the northern to the southern end of the Ings.  However we will need to close off access in certain areas where work is taking place. These restrictions are being put in place to ensure the safety of members of the public at all times.  Please look out for signs on the site to alert visitors to any changes in access, and follow instructions. If an area has been fenced off, this means that there is no public access allowed and we ask that you respect any instructions to avoid entering these areas.

These are the main changes we need to make during the first phase of work (September 2021 to April 2022), shown on the map below:

Two control gates have been installed on the Sustrans route at point X on the map below.  These will remain open most of the time but will be closed by a member of staff when vehicles need to cross the path to bring materials onto the site for work on the embankment.  They will then be re-opened as soon as the vehicles have passed/completed their work.  Outside working hours (evenings and weekends), the gates will be left open and will not cause any obstruction to visitors.

From November 2021 a short stretch of footpath connecting the current Sustrans Route 65 onto Clifton Ings will be closed between points X and Y on the map.  We need to do this to create a safe working area whilst the alternative route for the Sustrans path is built.  Once this is finished, we will then divert cyclists and pedestrians onto the new track in the spring of 2022.  This will be located on the west side of Ings Dyke and will remain open for the rest of the construction period. Our intention is that the diverted route will then become permanent once the scheme is completed.  This section of the track will be wider than the existing one, encouraging pedestrians and cyclists to use separate routes and also reducing visitor pressure on part of the SSSI area in Rawcliffe Meadows.

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Map showing access changes during the first phase of construction

Environmental impacts

If you want to read more about our plans to minimise the environmental impacts of our work, you can download the Clifton Ings Barrier Bank Mitigation Strategy here

Tracking surfaces laid on both sides of the Sustrans route in Rawcliffe Meadows

If you have visited Clifton Ings recently, you may have noticed the temporary 'tracking'surface laid beside the Sustrans route in Rawcliffe Meadows.  This has been placed there to reduce the impact of construction vehicles entering the site, especially in areas where the rare meadow grassland species can be found.  It is not designed to be used by pedestrians so please avoid walking on it if you come across it.

Construction impacts

If you want to find out more about how we manage the impacts of construction on this site, please download our Construction Management Plan from the City of York planning portal at:



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Visualisation of the glass panels being used to raise the flood defence height at Almery Terrace

This flood cell is situated between Clifton Bridge and Scarborough Bridge on the left bank of the River Ouse. Historically, water from the River Ouse has flooded properties on Almery, Sycamore and Longfield Terraces.

The existing flood embankment in St Peter’s School fields and the flood walls and the gates along Almery Terrace were first built in the early 1980s. In 2000 and 2015 they came close to being overtopped by flood water.

In 2020 we:

  • Completed the work of raising and extending the embankment in St Peter’s School fields;
  • Built a connecting wall between the embankment and the flood wall on the development site at the end of Almery Terrace.

This year (2021) we have:

  • Begun installing glass panels for properties in Almery Terrace
  • Completed the work to drive steel piles into the railway embankment up to Scarborough Bridge. This is to ensure flood water doesn’t bypass our defences.

Next Steps:

  • Complete glass panel installation
  • Install a new flood gate the top of Almery Steps

When this work is completed, over 150 properties in this area will be better protected from flooding.

You can find our latest newsletter here.

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The flood embankment next to the Hospitium in Museum Gardens

This flood cell is situated between Scarborough Bridge and Ouse Bridge on the right bank of the River Ouse.

Flood defences were first built in this area of the city in the early 1990s. These include a flood wall and flood gates along Earlsborough Terrace, the Marygate flood wall and retractable gate and the flood embankment in Museum Gardens. These defences came close to being overtopped in 2000 and 2015. We are proposing to raise these defences by around half a metre to better protect the 57 properties at flood risk in this area. 

Since construction has started on this scheme in 2021 we have begun:

  • Raising the flood walls and gates along Earlsborough Terrace with glass panels. 
  • Raising the Marygate flood wall with bricks and installing demountable panels on top of the Marygate flood gate. When the river is not flooded, these panels will be stored in a box attached to the dry side of the flood wall.
  • Raising and extending the flood embankment in Museum Gardens

In raising the height of the flood embankment in Museum Gardens, we are having to widen its ‘footprint’ (the area it occupies on the ground) to maintain its stability. To make space for this, we have had to remove some trees and bushes in the park. We have worked closely with York Museums Trust and changed the design  of the scheme in order to reduce the number of trees needing to be felled. This meant that we were able to save the rare True Service tree and another large tree on the edge of the construction compound.  We will mitigate for the loss of other trees in the park using the approach outlined in our Tree Strategy, listed at the bottom of this page.

Following construction the area will be replanted according to a new landscape plan approved by York Museums Trust.

In July 2020 we hosted a virtual public meeting on Zoom to share our revised plans to improve the flood defences between Scarborough Bridge and Lendal Bridge to better protect properties in the Marygate area from flooding. Access an event summary and Q&A from this event, or view a recording of the meeting on our YouTube channel. We started preparatory work in this flood cell in Spring 2021, and construction in Museum Gardens began in August 2021.

You can find a copy of our most recent newsletter here

If you would like a copy of our Frequently Asked Questions, our Supporting Information Pack or any documents in a different format please email us.

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The nature reserve St Nick's

These two flood cells are located on the east side of the city in the residential areas of Tang Hall, Osbaldwick and Heworth. 

The main source of flooding here comes from Tang Hall and Osbaldwick becks. These converge at St Nick’s Nature Reserve and flow through the reserve in an underground pipe - known as a culvert- into the River Foss. During a flood, water can ‘back up’ in the becks and accumulate at the point where the culvert goes under the nature reserve, causing flooding upstream.

We are working with St Nick’s Environment Centre to come up with a solution to this problem. We have investigated several different ways to reduce flood risk in this area, including removal of the culverts and creating a new open channel through the nature reserve instead. Unfortunately this is not feasible as it would require the removal of a huge amount of soil from the site, bringing large construction lorries into the area via residential roads. Having decided that this would have serious environmental impacts and also affect local residents, we are continuing to explore other options that would create less disturbance. Once we have completed feasibility studies for these, we will update this page. 

This scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to 263 properties. 

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Diagram showing how the Foss Storage Area will work

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The Foss Flood Storage Area (FSA) has been developed to protect homes and businesses on both sides of the River Foss, covering an area extending north from above the Foss Barrier beyond the York inner ring road and up to Strensall.  This includes three flood cells: the Groves to Hayley’s Terrace (F8), Hayley’s Terrace to the Link Road (F10) and the Link Road to Strensall (F11). Much of the area is residential, with many of the properties situated near to the river at risk of flooding.

Properties in these three flood cells do not benefit from the flood protection provided by the Foss Barrier as this only reduces flood risk to properties further downstream. Building the storage area will provide better protection from flooding for around 490 homes and businesses in York and Strensall.

In 2020 we gained planning consent for this scheme from both City of York Council and Ryedale District Council. Since then we have been working towards starting building the FSA this summer (2021) on farmland roughly two kilometres north east of Strensall.  Our contractors will construct an embankment across the River Foss which will hold and store water during a flood, reducing the volume of water further down the river during a flood.This will have a specially designed exit structure for the river to flow through under ordinary conditions. When water levels start to rise during a flood, the exit will limit the amount of water which can flow through at any one time, causing the storage area to fill. This will reduce the peak flow of water downstream. When water levels in the river fall again, the storage area will empty.

The embankment forming the storage area will be built to the same safety standards as a reservoir, even though it will not hold water permanently on this site. We anticipate that the flood storage area will partially fill approximately every five years and only fill completely in extreme weather conditions.  When the site is not being used to store water, the land can be farmed as normal.

We will shortly be publishing a newsletter to provide more information about our plans for construction of the scheme.

The project will deliver a number of environment benefits, including creating new ponds and wetlands, tree planting and improvements to the river bank which will increase water quality.


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This flood cell spans the stretch of Westfield Beck from Wigginton to New Earswick. 

We are using information from Yorkshire Water to assess the causes of flooding in this area. At the request of City of York Council, we are including surface water flooding in our mapping of flood risk in this area and will be working closely with them to find the best solution to deal with flooding in this flood cell.

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A wide-angle illustration of the new flood wall, running along Chantry Lane and Bishopthorpe Road

This flood cell is located south of the city centre on the right bank of the River Ouse. During a flood, water from the River Ouse flows onto Chantry Lane via a woodland area known as The Dell, and then floods Main Street.

There are no existing flood defences in this flood cell.

Having gained approval from City of York Council for our planning application in 2020,  we held an online event in November 2020 to provide the Bishopthorpe community with more information about the scheme and the opportunity to ask questions. A recording of the event is available to view on our YouTube page and you can request a written summary of the event and Q&A session by emailing us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

We began construction of the scheme in May 2021 and expect to complete construction in Spring 2022. Once completed, this scheme will reduce the risk of flooding to 117 properties in Bishopthorpe, as well as protect Bishopthorpe Main Street from river flooding.

Our latest newsletter was published in July 2021 and is attached here.

If you cannot access any of these documents, you can request a copy in another format by emailing us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

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This area is located on the right bank of the River Ouse between Naburn Bridge in the North and Intake Lane in the south. There are no formal flood defences in this area. We have determined that PFR is the most suitable option for properties in Acaster Malbis. We are offering a free PFR survey to eligible properties at risk of flooding.

Please see the section on PFR at the bottom of this page for details of our criteria for eligibility to the scheme and available funding.

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This flood cell is located on the left bank of the River Ouse with Naburn Sewerage Works to the North and Naburn Grange to the south. It extends east to encompass the lower reaches of Howden Dyke. There are no existing formal flood defences within the village of Naburn. PFR has been identified as the preferred option for properties in Naburn. Later this year we will be in touch with all eligible homeowners in this area to offer a free PFR survey. This will assess the suitability of the property for PFR and decide what measures would be most effective. Should the homeowner wish to proceed, we are offering to fit up to £7,500 worth of adaptations in their property free of charge, and they will be invited to meet the contractors and see these products for themselves.

A copy of the November 2020 newsletter for Naburn can be found here.

In December 2020 We held an event to provide information about Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures available for homes at risk of flooding in Naburn and to give an opportunity for residents to ask us questions. You can access a recording of the event by clicking on this link.

Please see the section on PFR at the bottom of this page for details of our criteria for eligibility to the scheme and available funding.

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Arial view of the Foss barrier site before the updgrade

The Foss Barrier and Pumping Station is situated at the confluence of the River Ouse and the River Foss in the centre of York.  The barrier was built following major flooding in York in 1982 and was first operated in 1987. The barrier reduces flood risk to properties along the Foss by preventing the Ouse, a much larger watercourse, ‘backing up’ and so raising river levels in the Foss during flood events. When water levels in the Ouse are higher than the Foss, the barrier is closed and water in the Foss is pumped around the barrier into the Ouse.

Since 1987 the Foss Barrier and Pumping Station have been operated successfully many thousand times, protecting hundreds of properties from flooding in York.

Winter flooding in 2015

On Boxing Day 2015, when the barrier was closed, the volume of water travelling down the River Foss was so great that the pumps were overwhelmed. This resulted in unprecedented water levels on the Foss. The decision was made to open the barrier which equalised levels either side of the barrier, thereby reducing water levels in the Foss and reducing the impact of the flooding. This decision not only reduced the overall extent of flooding but also allowed more time to warn and evacuate residents.

Foss Barrier upgrade

Since the Boxing Day flood in 2015, we have greatly increased the pumping capacity of the pumps at the barrier, installed new infrastructure to support the pumps and new power supplies. In early 2021 we installed a new, taller barrier gate. All this has been achieved whilst ensuring the station remains fully operational throughout.

Work on the barrier is almost finished and we are now completing final checks and will re-instate the car park in St George's Field.

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In some of the flood cells in York, it is not feasible for us to build flood defences. As an alternative in these areas, we are offering Property Flood Resilience (PFR) as a way of reducing flood risk. These are bespoke measures such as flood doors, temporary barriers, pumps and valves, which reduce the chance of flood water getting into a property.

Infographic showing examples of property flood resilience measures

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A property is eligible for our PFR scheme if:

  • It is situated within a flood risk area and the property thresholds are lower than the predicted water level during extreme flood events and where the property doesn’t benefit from a formal flood defence such as a flood wall;
  • Has previously suffered from river flooding;
  • Has adjoining eligible properties.

We are offering PFR according to principles defined nationally, following government rules on funding. Under this scheme, we are able to offer a free survey to eligible properties to assess their suitability for PFR and what measures can be recommended to reduce the likelihood of floodwater entering them. If homeowners wish to proceed, we can install adaptations costing up to £7,500 per property free of charge to the property owner.


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Records show that on average, the peak river level in the centre of York has been increasing annually over the last century (see figure 1). This increase means that the level of protection offered by York’s flood defences is falling over time. With current patterns of land use and climate change, predictions show that this trend will continue. Unless we can introduce upstream catchment management, it is predicted that in 100 years’ time the flood defences in York will need to be almost a metre higher just to offer the same standard of protection as they do now.
A graph showing the peak river level recordings taken at the Viking Recorder on the  River Ouse between 1885 and 2018. The trend line suggests that river levels are rising by 8mm a year on average.
Figure 1 This graph shows the peak river levels recorded at the Viking Recorder on the River Ouse between 1885 and 2019. The trend line suggests that peak river levels are rising by around 8mm a year on average. View an enlarged version of this graph.

Future options

We can’t keep building our defences higher and higher. In the long term, our options to maintain the standard of protection offered by existing defences, can be split into two broad categories:

Engineered storage areas can hold back and slowly release huge volumes of water. They alter large areas of farmland and in general provide greater benefit the closer they are located to York. We already have a number of storage areas upstream of York, and we will look into how best to optimise their use during floods.

Natural Flood Management is a term that covers a wide range of measures, usually making fairly subtle changes to land management or drainage and small watercourses. Cumulatively these measures can be effective, but they do need to be very numerous and the flood risk benefit of any individual action can be very difficult to quantify.

What happens now?

On the Swale, Ure, Nidd and Ouse we will continue flood modelling programmes to look at how floodplain washland and storage areas are best used. Where we can prove the benefit of particular interventions, we will aim to carry it out using the funding options available to us.

We do not believe that long term planning for the future of the Ouse catchment should be driven purely by flood risk concerns. We are investigating ways of working with partner organisations to develop and deliver a coherent long term strategy for the management of the Ouse catchment which not only reduces flood risk but also enhances the natural environment and biodiversity of the area.  

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Tree strategy

In places where we are constructing flood defences, we often need large amounts of space to build embankments or move heavy machinery around.  Once flood defences are built, we usually need to provide vehicle access for their maintenance or make sure that there are no obstructions that could damage them in the future.  This means that in certain situations we must remove some trees to enable our flood defence work to proceed. We recognise the negative impact this has on the environment and the local community and will mitigate for any loss of trees resulting from our work.  Whilst replanting does not immediately provide the same benefits, in the longer term it will create replacement tree cover which in turn will lead to improvements in the urban environment, making York a better place for people to live and work in.

To make sure we plant the right trees in the right places we have come up with our own 10 Golden Rules:

Protect existing trees

Where possible, we will adapt the design of each scheme to avoid removing trees

Involve local communities

We will fully engage with residents, Councillors and volunteer groups to ensure that they are happy with the tree placements.

Aim to provide multiple benefits

These benefits could include maintaining or creating new habitats, linking areas through ecological corridors, and improving the health and wellbeing of local residents.

Choose the right location

We won’t plant trees within eight metres of a main river or a flood defence, nor within nine metres of an Internal Drainage Board watercourse. We will also avoid obstructing access to footpaths and cycle ways.

Select the right trees

We aim to provide a mixture of tree species naturally found in the local area.

Support local suppliers

We will source saplings from local suppliers where possible.

Maximise survivability

We aim to choose trees that will survive in the local climate, including being resilient to flooding (if planted in the flood plain). We will also maintain each tree for five years after they have been planted.

Plant saplings

Young saplings have a greater chance of survival in their new position than larger trees.

Use sustainable materials

Where possible we will refrain from using plastic protective tubes.

Learn from our partners

We’re working with City of York Council and other local organisations to learn how to make the most of this tree planting opportunity.

You can read more about our Tree Strategy here.

What we want to achieve from this work

We want to ensure that our tree planting activities achieve greater benefits than just simply replacing what we have felled.  So we will work closely with City of York Council to complement the work they are doing to increase tree cover in and around the city.  We will also make efforts to ensure that our activities enhance national strategies such as the National Pollinator Strategy.

An additional goal is to use our tree planting activities to create new habitats and achieve greater connectivity between existing habitats in and around the city, thus improving opportunities for wildlife populations to move around safely.

Help us find locations to plant trees!

Finding suitable places to plant trees is difficult. Therefore, we would love to get your help, via our Tree Planting Suggestions Map. On the map, you can select locations around York where you think we might be able to plant trees, as well as upload a photo of the location, a description of the location and your estimate of how many trees we can plant. The map will be available to the public until the end of August, so you will have plenty of time to upload your ideas.

Adapting to climate change – how do we maximise that through tree planting?

City of York Council declared a climate emergency in March 2019. They are currently developing a wide range of initiatives and approaches to respond to this. We will work closely with them to ensure our plans harmonise with theirs. 

The Environment Agency and City of York Council have both set ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2030.  In partnership with the council we have identified the importance of increasing tree cover in the city and have committed to new tree planting where possible.

To make best use of the allocated funding, we must go through several stages of development for each scheme.

  1. The first stage is to understand what type of flooding occurs in a specific area (whether it comes from rivers, rainfall or the existing drainage network).  
  2. We then consider all possible options to reduce flood risk and examine them all to find the most appropriate one.
  3. Once this is chosen, we move on to the design stage, looking at all aspects of the design to ensure the chosen option is feasible.
  4. When the design is completed, we often need to obtain planning consent before starting construction. This ensures that we take into account issues ranging from public safety and environmental concerns to the impact of our work on road traffic and pedestrians.

Completing all the different stages of each scheme can be a long process as it takes time to carry out each stage. On average, a scheme should take a minimum of eight years to develop, however we are aiming to deliver some of our schemes in just five.

As the funding we receive to reduce flood risk in York comes from the government, we must follow strict guidelines on how it can be spent.  For every £1 spent in each flood cell, we must ensure that this saves more than £1 in damages.  This standard for Cost Benefit Analysis must be applied to all our work.

We always seek to engage with local communities and organisations during the development of a scheme to ensure that we listen to and learn from their views.  Where possible, we also include features in the design of our schemes that enhance the natural environment or provide other benefits, such as better access or improved facilities.

When designing our schemes, we also take into consideration how the structures we build now can be adapted or raised in the future, to take account of the effects of climate change.  The defenses we are building as part of the York Flood Alleviation Scheme will provide a high standard of protection up to the year 2039.

Find out more

If you would like to find out more about the work we are doing to reduce the risk of flooding in York, check out our Facebook page @YorkFAS or sign up to our quarterly newsletter by emailing us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk

Sign up to our free flood warning service at flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk

Remember that even homes and businesses which receive increased protection are still at risk of flooding. Our free flood warning service provides up-to-date information about flood risk in York straight to your mobile. Sign up to receive flood alerts and flood warnings.

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  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Fishing clubs and representative associations
  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
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  • NGOs
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  • River based salmon angling owners/fishing clubs/organisations
  • Individual migratory salmonid licence holders
  • Business that buy salmon/supported by salmon net and rod fishing
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  • Metal recycling trade associations and site operators
  • Operators
  • UK Border Force
  • Medium Combustion Plants
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  • Flood management