A NEW stream and wetland habitat may be created in a York nature reserve in an ambitious £8 million project to help protect more than 260 homes from flooding.

Four years after the disastrous Boxing Day floods of 2015, the Environment Agency is planning to open up a culvert which currently takes Osbaldwick Beck and Tang Hall Beck under St Nicholas Fields reserve.

Project manager David Morrey says ground investigations have been carried out at the reserve, situated between James Street and Melrosegate, to see if there was a way of improving the becks’ flows.

He said: “We modelled the flow of water in both becks during flood conditions. This shows that the majority of flooding on Osbaldwick Beck arises from a culvert which passes under the nature reserve and a second culvert under Melrosegate. In both cases the culverts are too small to handle the volume of water generated during a flood.”

He said the agency’s plans included widening the culvert under Melrosegate and opening up a new channel through the reserve, which would avoid the need for flood walls through back gardens and in environmentally sensitive areas.

“The new channel with its increased capacity will alleviate flooding but will also deliver additional environmental benefits,” he said. “Most of the habitat will be created along its banks and in wetland pond areas off it.

“We are working with St Nicks to design the new channel to increase the environmental value of the area and create new wetland habitat.

“Due to increasing urbanisation the path of the channel has been heavily modified from its natural course. It has been narrowed, straightened, and in many areas culverted.”

He said the Hull Road and Tang Hall area near the Hull Road end of Melrosegate was affected by flooding in 2015 but also in 1947, 1982 and 2000.

He stressed that certain aspects of the channel, landscaping, and reinstatement of affected paths remained flexible and the agency wanted to engage the local community to deliver a final scheme design that was the best possible solution, and coordinate with City of York Council to deliver a ‘green corridor’ through York and with the Urban Becks Project, which was working to recreate, restore and re-naturalise York’s urban becks.

He said challenges included ground conditions under the reserve, which lay within an historic landfill, and the flat topography, which could pose an issue in ensuring the new channel’s flow was sufficient to avoid siltation. The agency was aiming to submit a planning permission in autumn 2020 with construction to start in spring 2021, and the work was expected to cost about £8 million and better protect 263 homes from flooding.

Cllr Paula Widdowson, council executive member for Climate Change, said the authority welcomed progress on the delivery of improved flood prevention measures across the city and was working in close partnership with the agency on all aspects of design and implementation. “Improved flood defences will ensure our city is more resilient to the impacts of future flood events and is adapting to climatic change,” she added.