Otley scheme wins civil engineering award

Days after passing its first test at the hands of Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin, there was more good news for the Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme (Otley FAS).

Recently, the scheme won the prestigious Smeaton award at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Yorkshire and Humber awards ceremony in Leeds.

The awards celebrate the achievements of civil engineering in the Yorkshire and Humber region, with the Smeaton award being the top prize for projects with a budget under £5million.

The judges praised the environmentally friendly approach to flood alleviation, how the scheme enhances biodiversity through the daylighting of Kell Beck, and praised the scheme for completing the works successfully so close to Otley Bridge, a scheduled ancient monument.

Works to alleviate flooding in Otley began in 2016, in response to the devastating flooding from storm Eva on Boxing Day 2015. In March 2020, the plans for a £4.5million scheme were approved by Leeds City Council. Construction began in March 2021, and the scheme was functional in November 2021.

The scheme has been developed to reduce the likelihood of flooding to the road at Billams Hill and properties on Farnley Lane and Bridge Avenue from 20% in any given year to 4% in any given year.

In March 2022, Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, joined a group of stakeholders on the Otley Flood Alleviation Scheme (Otley FAS) to tour the site of the completed works, and to observe the condition of the scheme in the aftermath of its success across storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin.

Across 6 days in February 2022, the three back-to-back storms brought more rainfall than the entire average for the month of February. This resulted in levels on the River Wharfe reaching 1.92metres on Sunday February 20, similar to those from Storm Ciara in February 2020, when flooding was experienced at Billams Hill.

The high river levels provided the first test of the newly finished Otley FAS. As predicted, the scheme was effective. It successfully stopped the floodwater from escaping into the road at Billams Hill, allowing the road to remain open. There was also no flooding to the properties on Farnley Lane or Bridge Avenue.

Photo: EA/Leeds City