After consecutive summers of water causing devastation, parts of the upper Calder Valley can now feel much safer from the risk of flooding.
Completion of phase three of the Todmorden flood alleviation scheme, which has taken two-and-a-half years at a total cost of £13m, has significantly increased the protection against flooding in the future.
The major project, which has seen extensive engineering work carried out at several sites around Todmorden, has been a team effort involving the Environment Agency, contractors Volker Stevin, Calderdale Council and the local community.
A flood wall, ranging in height from 1.3 metres to 3.2 metres high, has been built along Rochdale Road in Shade.
A big part of the project was construction of a 500-metre long retaining wall by Morrisons, on Rochdale Road, and creation of new access and exit roads for traffic entering and leaving the supermarket.
Gary Robinson, Volker Stevin senior foreman, said it posed a massive logistical challenge to carry out the work and allow the store to operate as normal.
“There have been a lot of 24-hour shifts,” he said.
“We did as much as we could ‘out of hours’.”
While doing initial excavation work at Morrisons, part of a mill structure dating back to 1820 was discovered.
“We salvaged some of the stone from the mill structure which was excavated and used that in the wall,” Gary said.
The whole scheme was planned in conjunction with conservation officers to ensure the new structures fitted in as closely as possibly with their surroundings.
At Todmorden Market Hall, an unsound structure was replaced and two runs of 25 metre culverts built upstream under the building.
Mark Tupman, EA project manager, said: “Surveys showed that the original structure had some weaknesses.
“The plan was to dig down from the floor. But that would have caused massive disruption to the market.
“Working with Volker Stevin, we incorporated box culverts into the existing culverts.
“We modelled the flow to see what it could handle and make sure it did not affect anything.”
Bird boxes and dipper landing nests have also been installed in the culverts.
The work which has taken place on Water Street was not originally part of the scheme but became essential when it was discovered that buildings overhanging the culvert were unstable.
This posed a serious risk that if water levels rose above the buildings’ threshold, they would have collapsed, blocked the culvert and resulted in flooding in the town centre.
Extra protection has been put in place around the walls of the shops and the culvert underneath has been strengthened with the addition of steel girders to provide further support.
Mark said: “There were three businesses in the premises. We relocated them to temporary premises to keep them open as close as possible.
“One has now moved back in and one has chosen to stay in the temporary premises. The other is moving back in the new year.
“With two of these businesses, they have actually flourished in temporary premises.”
Flooding in summer 2012 highlighted a waterfall off Rochdale Road as a weak point.
The EA and Volker Stevin spent time addressing the issue and providing extra protection for nearby residents.
Alison Carlton, of Laneside House, saw her home devastated in summer 2012 when a torrent from the waterfall came gushing into her adjacent home.
“It flooded my kitchen up to a height of six feet,” she said.
“We had to smash the windows to let the water out because the house was going to be damaged structurally. It was awful.
“It was like something out of a film.”
Now the wall around the waterfall has been raised by 4.5 metres, Alison feels more at ease.
“This summer the water was still coming over the top but it coped admirably,” she said.
“My biggest worry about flooding was the waterfall. But I feel much safer now.
“In between being flooded and them carrying out the work, every time it rained we were on permanent flood watch thinking ‘Oh God, is it going to come over again?’
“I’m really pleased and very grateful to the Environment Agency and Volker Stevin for their work.”
Building links with the community has been a priority throughout the project. Monthly stakeholder meetings were held to keep people updated on progress, and EA and Volker Stevin staff have regularly visited local schools and other community groups.
Alan Whittaker, EA communications manager, said: “We were always keen to build relationships and leave a legacy in Todmorden.
“That has been a priority throughout.
“We are very proud of how we have managed to deliver the scheme.
“The community has been very co-operative throughout any disruption there has been and helped us to deliver the scheme on time.
“It’s been a team effort and I think that’s why it has been so successful.”
Coun Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for economy and environment, said completion of the project is a huge step forward.
“The way the contractors, the Environment Agency and the community have co-ordinated to push a scheme through is really special,” he said.
“We will never be able to entirely prevent flood risk but it’s important we do everything we can to protect our communities and guarantee their future prosperity.
“Calderdale Council is pleased to have been involved with it.”
Coun Collins said Calderdale Council has put forward plans for a further £40m of flood protection work in different parts of Calderdale, particularly the upper Calder Valley area, over the next 20 years.
l Visit our websites to check out a video of the Environment Agency and Volker Stevin team explaining the work that has been done as part of the extensive project.