ICE Director General Nick Baveystock recently visited the Steeple Bumpstead Flood Alleviation Scheme, which is the first project in the East of England to champion the ICE's 'This is Civil Engineering' campaign. The campaign is a national initiative to illustrate the importance of civil engineering to the public, and the effect it has on our every day lives.
The Steeple Bumpstead Project is a great example for the campaign, as it combines a variety of construction methods with challenging conditions, restricted access, and a very strong public interface. Furthermore, it has already had a real and tangible impact on the residents of Steeple Bumpstead, successfully protecting their homes from flooding during the recent heavy rainfall in February 2014.
Steeple Bumpstead is a flood risk area because two brooks, from Hempstead and Helions Bumpstead, meet in the village. Following periods of heavy rainfall in 2007 and 2009, the brooks burst their banks, and numerous houses in the village were flooded. Chairman of the Steeple Bumpstead Flood Action Committee, Dave Croft commented at the time: "The emotional turmoil and levels of anxiety are so high, not just when it floods, but pretty much every time it rains. You can't put a cash amount on that. It damages people's lives."
Following these flood events, work began in February 2013 to re-profile sections of each channel, and included the replacement of six river crossings, including footbridges, road bridges and a ford.
As Jackson Civil Engineering Regional Manager, Stephen Christian explains: "This project really IS civil engineering. From a construction point of view we had demolition, reinforced concrete structures, drainage, road construc tion, bank protection, brick walls and fencing, working in the watercourse both with and against nature, landscaping work in residents' back gardens, and all whilst causing as little disruption as possible to the everyday lives of the residents, and ensuring the flow of the brook was unhindered, especially during flood conditions."
Although the project has been warmly welcomed by local residents, with an 18 month programme, and a restricted construction area, the project team were very conscious of the disruption that would inevitably be caused to the local residents during construction, and tried wherever possible to mitigate this. For example, one of the road bridges that needed replacing was on the school bus route, and closure of this during term-time would have resulted in a 16 mile diversion for the school bus. The project team listened to the concerns of local residents, and devised a method of demolition and reconstruction that could be carried out during the 6 week Summer break, so the school children were not affected.
In two instances, the river crossings to be re-built were residents' only means of access to their houses, and therefore special measures had to be taken to ensure access was maintained at all times, and in one instance, a bailey bridge was installed to ensure an ambulance could access one particular residence.
Stephen said: "In one instance, it really was a life or death situation that we had to take into account. We had to work very closely with the residents and get everyone on board. This project was about protecting people's homes and giving the residents of Steeple Bumpstead the chance to have a good nights' sleep – without worrying about the possibility of waking up to flooded roads, gardens and worst of all flooded homes. However, all the hard work and careful planning has really been worthwhile and we will be leaving the village peaceful and more attractive than when we arrived, with the brooks remaining firmly in the watercourse and not threatening peoples' livelihoods. In the case of this project, civil engineering has had a direct and positive impact on the public."
Adrian Burr, the current Chairman of the Flood Action Committee said that residents could finally sleep easy at night: "The scheme has very much succeeded in doing what it was supposed to do. Not one house was flooded during the recent floods and it has made a great difference to the liv es of everyone in the village."