Sussex Flow Initiative recognised for ''integral role'' in reducing flood risk

Markstakes Common visit
Lewes councillors visit the Lost Woods project

The Chair of Lewes District Council has spoken about the "integral role" the Sussex Flow Initiative is playing in tackling flood risk in the Ouse catchment across the Lewes district.

Councillor Adrian Ross was speaking after visiting one of the many Sussex Flow Initiative (SFI) projects near Plumpton. The SFI is a partnership between the Woodland Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency and is supported by funding from Lewes District Council.

Councillor Ross said: "There is no silver bullet solution to flooding in our district, it is inevitable that there will be times during heavy and sustained rainfall that we see some disruption due to excess water on our roads and public spaces.

"Encouragingly though, the Sussex Flow Initiative has been working closely with partners and experts within the council since 2012 to restore and create natural features that are designed to slow and store water in the landscape and to help reduce flood peaks. The SFI plays an integral role and one that I am delighted the council continues to fully support."

Natural flood management is a way of reducing flooding that works with nature rather than against it. It offers a range of different techniques to help slow and store water upstream, to reduce flooding downstream. The approach does not just offer benefits for flooding, it also helps to enhance nature and provides a multitude of other natural benefits.

Councillor Matthew Bird, Cabinet Member for Sustainability, said: "The Sussex Flow Initiative is an important award-winning example of natural flood management. We plan to support these and other nature-based approaches to climate change across the district with our partners and local communities."

The councillors (pictured) visited Ashurst Organics near Plumpton to see how the SFI has created new water storage via a network of seven wildlife scrapes, which are shallow ponds. Between 350,000 to 1,350,000 litres of floodwater is stored during each flood event, as well as creating habitats and purifying water.

The team, along with Catchment Sensitive Farming, also worked with the landowner to help them into Countryside Stewardship, including contributing to planting and fencing around one km of new hedgerow.

Councillor Ross added: "It is great to have the support of local landowners and businesses, such as Ashurst Organics, helping to protect us from flooding and restoring biodiversity at the same time as providing food and generating employment in the district.

"Looking into the future it is my personal hope and ambition that one day we might be able to get beavers, nature's very own flood-defence specialists, to help prevent flooding by capturing and slowing water from our increasingly-intense and frequent storms."