Northwich flood plan put to the test as partners carry out a ‘dry run’ exercise

10 Nov 2022

Plans to prevent flooding in Northwich have been put to the test this week with a live exercise bringing together multiple agencies in a ‘dry run’ of how they would react to extreme wet weather.

The Multi-agency Emergency Flooding Plan for Northwich Town Centre was launched last month, and outlines how Cheshire West and Chester Council as the Local Lead Flood Authority, with the Environment Agency and United Utilities and other agencies such as the Canal & River Trust, will tackle flood risks as a partnership.

They joined together in the town earlier this week to work through a flood scenario as a test of the process and procedures set out in the plan.

The comprehensive contingency plan uses the experience of previous flood events to set out a collaborative, integrated response to help protect the town’s residents and businesses. It features a network of monitors to keep an eye on river, sewer and highway drain levels, and will see the installation of 12 pumps which will remove excess water to lower the risk of flooding to the town centre. Together, they have the capacity to pump around 1,000 litres per second – which combined with additional standby pumps provided by the Environment Agency is the equivalent to the contingency that was in place last winter.

During the exercise, the teams were able to apply their skills and experience to the scenario and understand how a number of factors could impact a real life situation, adapting their responses as the mock situation developed.

Rose McArthur, Director of Transport and Highways at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “With changes to the climate resulting in more heavy rain and incidents of flooding, it is important that towns such as Northwich which have suffered in the past are prepared ahead of winter.

“Since Storm Christoph, partners have been working more closely together to establish the Multi-Agency Emergency Flooding Plan. The live exercise this week put this plan to the test and was an important step in our preparations for winter. All partners now have a better understanding of each other’s role. We are better prepared to tackle any flooding incidents in the future, which will reassure residents and businesses in areas affected in the past.”

Craig Connor, Wastewater Drainage Area Manager at United Utilities, said: “Working together on the critical issue of flooding ensures we can respond quickly and thoroughly when wet weather impacts the area, helping to protect homes and businesses.

“Putting the joint plan to the test in this live exercise has been a fantastic way to boost our preparedness, and gives us some hands-on experience which will be of great use if we need to take action this winter.”

Ollie Hope, Area Flood and Coastal Risk Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “Our Northwich flood defences protect hundreds of properties from river flooding and we regularly operate and maintain them so they’re ready for action when river levels rise.

“This successful multi agency exercise, where we’ve tested the new emergency flood plan, shows how we’ve worked with partners to mitigate the devastating impacts of flooding from all sources, including surface and foul water.

“It is important to recognise that we can’t stop all flooding, especially given the increasingly extreme weather we are seeing because of climate change. We would urge everyone in Northwich to sign up for our free flood warning service and prepare a flood plan so that they know what to do if flooding occurs.”

Adam Gerrard, Northwich BID Project Manager, said: Businesses in the town centre should know that the partners working on this project have shown that they are firmly invested into protecting Northwich.

“Being able to see the dry run first-hand demonstrated that there’s been a significant amount of work put into the emergency plan by all three partners and they are well prepared ahead of the winter period to ensure Northwich can receive a quick reaction if needed.”