Sheffield has been lucky. But will it be lucky next time? The flooding risk for this city is high. 2007 was the most serious incident in the last 20 years but others have happened. Hills to the south and west with fast flowing rivers deposit large quantities of water into the centre and low lying land to the east after heavy rainfall. So far in recent weeks the worst of the rain has come further north. But is Sheffield prepared?
Sir Bob Kerslake was Chief Executive in 2007 and was brought in to BBC Radio4's World at One today to say how well Sheffield had adapted. He said very little on that - not reassuring. And looking at the relevant page on SCC's website it seems progress 8 years later has been very slow even on what's been agreed. Sheffield seems to have a Flood Risk Management Strategy which is a bit like a history and geography lesson - a lot of words and analysis but there is little evidence of urgency about it - it's still in draft form.
If you look very carefully you may find on page 72 of 74 a reference to something called a Sheffield Waterways Strategy in which these words occur:
"Change management of moorlands"
"Management of the upland catchment .... to improve stormwater retention."
But I could find no indication that they form part of any planned action in relation to mitigating flooding. Which is odd seeing as most of the rainwater filling the rivers originates in the hills and moors.
There's an associated document, a Strategic Environmental Assessment produced by the consultants Halcrow. This goes over a lot of familiar ground including landscape character assessments. The main thrust seems to be the creation of stormwater attenuation areas which can be allowed to flood - these would need to be wasteland or public land such as parks. It appears that Natural England's rigid character assessments in the upland catchments are taken as inviolable. No mention of changing the upland management in terms of more forest.