York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) Information page

Closes 31 Dec 2024

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.  As the programme of work is coming to an end, we are no longer updating these pages or issuing quarterly newsletters for the whole scheme. However, if you want to receive updates on the schemes which are still active, you can email us at yorkfloodplan@environment-agency.gov.uk 

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


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 upstream in the way land is managed have caused these floods to become more severe. This was evident in December 2015, when we experienced the wettest calendar month since records began.  Over 620 homes along with 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 recalling the floods of 2000 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 has been able to 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 work carried out under the York FAS 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 have developed flood risk schemes in York

In those parts of the city seriously affected by flooding, we have worked hard to identify solutions that are environmentally and socially acceptable as well as being technically feasible and affordable.  Over the lifetime of the programme, we have investigated options for reducing flood risk in 18 separate 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 identified has its own characteristics and complexities that may influence or constrain the choice of solution.

The map below shows the 18 flood cells where we investigated options to deal with flooding.  The text below then describes in more detail what has been done in each flood cell.

A map showing the York Flood Alleviation Scheme flood cells

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The North Street flood defences in action during the February 2020 flooding
Photo: North Street flood defences in action during 2020
This scheme was completed in February 2022, providing improved flood protection for 39 homes and businesses.
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 nearby properties.  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.


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Skeldergate during the February 2020 floods

Photo: 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 Road can become submerged and properties on either side of this road are at risk of flooding.

There are no formal flood defences in this area. For a variety of complicated reasons, we have not been able to build ‘hard’ defences (flood walls) in this location.  Many of the properties here are designed to cope with flooding on the ground floor or have already installed Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures. 


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View of King's Staith from Ouse Bridge

Photo: View of Kings Staith from Ouse Bridge when river levels are high

This flood cell is situated between Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge on the left bank of the River Ouse. It is one of the first areas in the city to flood. 

There are no formal flood defences in this area. The commercial nature of this area with its riverside pubs and cafes means that traditional flood protection measures such as floodwalls and embankments would not be appropriate.  Eligible properties are currently having PFR measures fitted by our contractors.

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View of Terry Avenue in Clementhorpe

Photo: Riverside view from Terry Avenue in Clementhorpe

This flood cell is situated between Skeldergate Bridge and Rowntree Park on the right bank of the River Ouse.  Construction work to reduce flood risk in this flood cell was completed in September 2022. This work has reduced the risk of flooding to 135 properties.

 An illustration of the works for the Clementhorpe Flood Alleviation Scheme

To reduce flood risk:

  • We have built:
    • a flood wall in front of Waterfront House and a new flood wall to link into the newly improved defences, completed by Roomzzz Hotel, on Lower Ebor Street; 
    • an embankment and short wall along the boundary of Rowntree Park;
    • an underground flood defence along Terry Avenue, known as “seepage mitigation”. (This is a semi-permeable underground barrier to limit the amount of flood water that can pass under above ground flood defences.)
  • We raised the corners of the existing boundary walls at Postern Close. We installed new flood defences between Postern Close and Postern House, raised the height of the existing flood defence walls and constructed an earth embankment on the boundary of Rowntree Caravan Park; 
  • We have installed:
    • a new flood gate on Clementhorpe, at the junction with Terry Avenue; 
    • a new flood wall and raised the road level at Dukes Wharf; 
  • Property Flood Resilience (PFR) was installed in 27 properties at the southern end of Clementhorpe, where there are no formal flood defences.


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This area forms the southern portion of Clementhorpe where there are no formal flood defences. Our investigations showed that Property Flood Resilience (PFR) was the most suitable option and eligible properties have been fiited with these measures.


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

Photo: The cycle/pedestrian path which runs the lenght 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 installed in eligible properties in this flood cell.

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

Photo: A bird's-eye view of Clifton Ings during the floods in September 2012

As part of the York Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS), we are investing £31 million of government funding to improve flood defences in this area. When this scheme is completed in 2024, 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.

Latest updates on construction

We produce updates on the Clifton Ings Flood Alleviation Scheme to let you know what's been happening on this site and how this might affect you if you visit it. You can read the most recent update in the newsletter for April 2023.

General information about the scheme

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 to York. 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. 

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.

Phases of construction

Construction of this scheme started in September 2021 and will finish by the autumn of 2025.  This includes allowing time after construction work finishes in 2024 for grass cover on the new embankment to establish.  The work is divided into two phases:

Phase one: Autumn 2021 to Spring 2022           

Initial enabling works and building an alternative Sustrans cycle track.

Phase two: Spring 2022 to Autumn/Winter 2025    

Raising the height of the existing embankment, extending it at the south eastern end in Homestead Park, constructing the northern extension into Rawcliffe Country Park, building a new pumping station for Blue Beck and completing Habitat Restoration works.

Changes in access to the site

We have planned this scheme very carefully so that we are restricting access in locations only where it’s necessary.  

Throughout the construction period, most of the site will remain open and accessible to the public.  Visitors will be able to travel from the northern to the southern end of the Ings, using the new section of Sustrans route.  However, we have closed access in central parts of the site, where our contractors are working. These restrictions have been put in place to ensure the safety of members of the public at all times.  We apologise for any inconvenience they may cause.

Please look out for the signs we have placed in key locations to alert visitors to these path closures and access restrictions. If an area has been fenced off, this means that there is no public access allowed. We ask that you respect any instructions to avoid entering these areas.

Minimising the impacts of our work

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

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.  You can also read the list of actions we have taken to minimise environmental impacts and protect wildlife here.

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

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

Photo: A visualisation of the glass panels used to raise the height of flood defences at Almery Terrace

Work in this flood cell was completed in May 2022, with 156 properties better protected from flooding.

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.

To reduce flood risk we:

  • raised and extended 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
  • Installed glass panels for properties in Almery Terrace
  • Installed steel piles into the railway embankment up to Scarborough Bridge. This is to ensure flood water doesn’t bypass our defences.
  • Installed a new flood gate the top of Almery Steps.


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The flood embankment next to the Hospitium in Museum Gardens

Photo: The flood embankmnet 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 built here in the early 1990s came close to being overtopped in 2000 and 2015.  We have completed the following to protect 57 properties:

  • Raised the height of the flood walls and gates along Earlsborough Terrace with glass panels.
  • Raised the height of 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.
  • Raised and extended the flood embankment in Museum Gardens.

Increasing the height of the flood embankment in Museum Gardens has also widened 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.  The defences are now fully functional, and the area has replanted according to a new landscape plan approved by York Museums Trust.

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The nature reserve St Nick's

Photo: St Nick's nature reserve

These two flood cells are located 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 where the culvert goes under the nature reserve, causing flooding upstream.

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 it has not been possible to build flood defences in this area. We are exploring other options that would reduce the environmental impact of such a scheme and create less disturbance for residents, such as Natural Flood Management (NFM) in the upper part of this catchment. 

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Diagram showing how the Foss Storage Area will work

Diagram showing how the Foss Flood Storage Area will work

Click here to view an enlarged version of this image.

The Foss Flood Storage Area (FSA) aims to protect homes and businesses on both sides of the River Foss, 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 Link Road to Strensall (F11). 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. Construction of the FSA began in the spring of 2022 on land north east of Strensall and is continuing during 2023. Our contractors have built an embankment across the River Foss which will hold and store flood water. 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 is being 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.

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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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 and then floods Main Street.

In May 2021 work started on this scheme. The project was completed in April 2022, reducing flood risk for 170 properties in the area.  To achieve this, we have built:

  • A flood wall along Chantry Lane, 180 metres long; 
  • A flood gate across the bottom of Chantry Lane;
  • A new manhole chamber with a penstock mechanism.

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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. Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures have been installed in eligble properties in Acaster Malbis. 

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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. There are no existing formal flood defences within the village of Naburn. Eligble properties are currently having Property Flood Resilience (PFR) measures fitted by our contractors.

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Arial view of the Foss barrier site before the updgrade

Photo: Aerial view of the Foss Barrier site 

The Foss Barrier and pumping station is situated at the confluence of the River Ouse and the River Foss in the centre of York.  They were built following major flooding in York in 1982 and 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 in operation many thousands of times, successfully protecting hundreds of properties from flooding in York.

Foss Barrier upgrade

Photo: View of the Foss Barrier pumping station and barrier gate as work nears completion.

Since the Boxing Day floods 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 of the new electric control equipment is housed in the new steel clad rooms built above the maximum flood level on top of the old building.  All these improvements have been achieved whilst ensuring the station remains fully operational throughout. 

Work on the barrier has been completed.  We have re-instated the car park in St George's Field. 


Photo: The new Foss Barrier in fully lowered position.  All of the new controls and lifting equipment are housed in the glass bridge over the gate. 

You can read more information about the Foss Barrier in the Wikipedia page under the heading ‘River Foss Barrier’.

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In some of the flood cells in York, it is not feasible for us to build flood defences for a variety of reasons.  In these areas, we are offering Property Flood Resilience (PFR) as an alternative way to deal with flooding. This includes bespoke measures installed into homes 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

Diagram: Examples of Property Flood Resilience Measures

View an enlarged version of this image.

A property is eligible for our PFR scheme if:

  • It is situated within a flood risk area and the property thresholds (doorstep levels) 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 have offered funding for PFR measures according to principles defined nationally, following government rules on funding. Under this scheme, we are able to offer a free survey of eligible properties to assess their suitability for PFR and what measures can be recommended to reduce the likelihood of floodwater entering them. If owners wish to proceed, we can install adaptations costing up to £7,500 per property free of charge to the property owner.

To find out more about what sort of PFR products are available, visit The Blue Pages, the UK's leading independent directory of PFR measures.

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Records show that on average, the peak river level in the centre of York has been increasing over the last century (see figure 1). This increase means that the level of protection offered by York’s flood defences is failing 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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