York Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme

Client: City of York Council
Location: York and wider catchment communities


The river catchments of the Swale, Ure and Nidd merge upstream of the city of York to create the River Ouse (SUNO catchment). The catchment has a long history of flooding, which is expected to be exacerbated by climate change, despite ongoing investment in flood defence infrastructure. Communities in the upland catchments suffer a ‘perfect storm’ of flood risk due to a combination of high levels of hazard, limited warning, and a poor emergency response due to the dispersed population and isolation from transport networks.

North Yorkshire is one of the most rural and sparsely populated counties in England, yet approximately 13,800 properties (more than 20,000 when accounting for non-residential properties) are at risk of flooding. Many areas of the highways and rail network, as well as approximately 50 items of critical infrastructure, have also been identified as at risk. Meanwhile, whilst significant efforts have been made to improve the Standard of Protection (SOP) of defences in the City of York, a further 3,000 properties have been identified at risk of fluvial flooding.


This project will deliver a programme of investment in natural flood management (NFM) measures which will increase the resilience of small communities across North Yorkshire. Innovative catchment-scale modelling will show the potential of such NFM measures to cumulatively benefit downstream communities, including the City of York. The project will engage with catchment partners and communities to build the capacity to implement NFM and raise awareness of how water connects their communities. Financing models will be investigated with the aim of developing a self-sustaining forward pipeline of NFM investment opportunities that enables a long-term legacy.


Project investment in NFM measures will directly reduce damage and disruption caused by flooding to communities in North Yorkshire. These areas are often isolated and vulnerable to being cut off from vital services. NFM will also create environmental benefits, supporting the significant tourist industry. Innovative modelling will underpin land management decisions to maximise benefits locally and inform future modelling practice nationally. Project learning will enable a better-informed flood and agri-environment funding policy. Although not claimed in the economic case, a legacy of NFM across the catchment would provide long-term benefits, ultimately including reduced frequency of overtopping of the flood defences in York.

Want to know more?

For more information about this project please contact Rachelle Ngai or Emma Brook.

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