The village of Hele in Devon has been prone to flooding due to its lack of flood defences. Flood reduction in this area is vital – The River Culm runs through the village, as does the Great Western Railway line. Climate change and more extreme weather events are leading to more frequent flooding which damages properties and businesses, and disrupts the main railway line from London to Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.
The plans to make the area more resilient to flood events include replacing a bridge with an elevated viaduct to increase the flow of water through the structure. Our team of ecologists worked with Network Rail to carry out the Biodiversity Net Gain assessment on the area to ensure the work is planned to meet the requirement of an increase of at least 10% net gain in habitats.
The land around this bridge has always been a floodplain consisting of rough, unmanaged grassland. Our ecologists consulted with Network Rail and the Environment Agency to propose transforming the area into a wetland to help further mitigate against flooding events.
As the project proceeds, we will work to plant more trees (whose roots will help with flood reduction as they will stem the flow of water), lowland fen, scrub and reedbeds. By planting more plants and trees that like wet conditions, we will be creating priority habitats and attracting more biodiversity.
We will also be removing invasive species (such as Himalayan balsam) and plants of less benefit to the landscape. The trees and plants will be chosen to be low-maintenance, so the area doesn’t need to be regularly managed. The floodplain will also be reprofiled to make it more low-lying, to help maintain water flow and reduce flood risk to the village of Hele, and road and rail transport links.
All of these measures will mean the landscape will be better able to absorb excess flood water and biodiversity will be enhanced. Our ecologists estimate the project will achieve approximately 30% net gain in habitat units.
Not only will the village and the important railway line that runs through it be better protected from the effects of flooding, but the community will also benefit from the improvement of an area of floodplain that will be transformed into a water-absorbing, wildlife haven.
Find out more about the Hele flood alleviation scheme and the scope of work.