Natural Flood Management: Shaping success through partnerships

Jenny Broomby recently undertook research with us for her thesis – a part of her MSc Sustainability and Consultancy degree at the University of Leeds. Jenny’s research project was interested in the means by which Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures are successfully implemented, in particular the value of partnership working.

The research project ran in parallel with the national Research and Development (R&D) Working with Natural Processes (WWNP) Evidence Base Project which we led on behalf of the Environment Agency. The thesis title was ‘Partnerships in Working with Natural Processes schemes in the UK: Identifying factors that impact & shape success’. Jenny was mentored and guided by Steve Maslen, Rachelle Ngai and Steve Rose in our Saltaire office, supported further by the JBA Trust.

Working With Natural Processes

WWNP is defined by the Environment Agency as ‘taking action to manage fluvial and coastal flood and coastal erosion risk by protecting, restoring and emulating the natural regulating function of catchments, rivers, floodplains and coasts’. It often requires work across whole catchment areas as well as requiring a wide set of participants and skills.

Jenny studied partnerships in WWNP schemes across the UK, focusing on the factors that impact and shape success. Her aim was to draw awareness to their experiences to allow future partnerships to learn from past projects. The application of partnership working to NFM is relatively recent and unique, with little academic research conducted to date. This work hoped to provide some practical guidance to NFM initiatives as well as contributing to this burgeoning area of research.

Natural Flood Management case studies

Whilst the role of individual contexts is important to consider, there were a number of commonalities identified across 60 NFM documented case studies. Some such schemes include Holnicote, Pickering, Haweswater, Belford, Blackbrook, Stroud Rural SuDS and Haltwhistle, which could provide valuable guidance for future NFM partnerships and initiatives.

Local communities, landownership and the evidence gap on how effective a measure might be if implemented are examples of factors that can both drive a partnership, as well as act as a barrier to progress.

Project champions

One emergent factor that drives and enables partnerships is the existence of project champions. In many cases, a scheme was driven significantly by one individual who acted in an official or unofficial capacity to gain buy-in from local communities, fellow colleagues, or whole organisations. In some cases, the project champion was a local community member and in others, the project manager was also the project champion. This was not because it was in their job description, but because they truly believed in the scheme and its outputs. Champions can be crucial to all stages of a project and not only help to overcome barriers when bringing the partnership together, but strive to ensure the project stays on track.

Want to know more?

Read Jenny’s research on the JBA Trust website.

Please contact Jenny Broomby if you would like to know more.

We are supporting the CIWEM conference on the 6 December in Leeds, which will officially launch the ‘Working with Natural Processes Evidence Base’. A similar conference took place in London on the 31 October.

If you want to know more, you can contact Steve Rose, our expert in WWNP, for more information on the national R&D project and our work in Natural Flood Management. Why not visit our  Natural Flood Management web page too?

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