Vital investment in Bristol’s historic harbourside

Vital investment in Bristol’s historic harbourside

Bristol City Council’s Cabinet will next week (14 December) be asked to approve plans to invest in works to repair the Floating Harbour’s historic Underfall Yard sluices.

7 December 2021

The proposed investment is one of several projects in and around the harbour that seek to repair an ageing infrastructure within the iconic city location.

Bristol’s Floating Harbour was created in 1840 to support the growth of the shipping industry and trade around the world.

Much of the sluice infrastructure is over 100 years old, with the last major refurbishment carried out in the 1990s when the sluice paddles were replaced. Urgent work is now needed to refurbish the sluices which are vital to the operation of the harbour and flood defence within the city.

The sluices protect the harbour and surrounding areas from flooding by controlling water levels within the harbour. If they were to fail while open, the harbour would lose water, risking a failure of the harbour walls. If they failed while closed, water levels in the harbour would rise, with limited other means to control the water level, significantly increasing the likelihood of flooding to nearby homes and businesses. The investment would seek to ensure the sluices remain fully operational in future.

Cabinet will be asked to approve up to £1.25m for works to the sluices, and to give authorisation for a funding bid to the Environment Agency for the maximum amount available from the Flood Defence Grant in Aid fund.

A recent inspection found at least £0.5m in repairs is needed, but this was just a visual inspection, which did not examine different long-term solutions or carry out further investigations. It is expected that further works would cost significantly more, with part of the funding coming from a reallocation of Capital budget.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Bristol’s harbour is an asset that is important to the whole city and we are committed to making it work for everyone in Bristol. The harbour has evolved over time and we need to ensure that it meets the needs of a 21st century city and responds to the challenges and opportunities we face, including a changing climate and changes to the way we use and enjoy the harbour.

“Investing in the Underfall Yard sluices is long overdue. This investment is just part of our plans to make the harbour and the areas around it fit for the future. By protecting and improving this vital piece of infrastructure we can ensure the harbour is enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations to come.”

The proposed repairs to the Underfall Yard sluices come alongside other investment into the harbour and riversides in Bristol.

In March 2021, Cabinet approved £2.5m of extra funding for infrastructure and historic assets around the Floating Harbour and River Avon New Cut over the next two years. This includes investment in 11 of the highest priority assets in need of investment due to their importance to the city’s strategic transport network.

An Outline Business Case for the Bristol Avon Flood Strategy is also being progressed in 2022.

This strategy is a vital part of better protecting Bristol and surrounding areas from flooding in future. Works will include replacing the ageing lock gates at either end of the Floating Harbour, upstream at Netham Lock and at Entrance Lock in Cumberland Basin, and will rely on the Underfall Yard sluices being fully operational as a key part of Bristol’s flood resilience.

John Buttivant, Coastal Engineer, Environment Agency, said: “The proposed refurbishment of the Underfall Sluices will help to maintain the current levels of flood protection for people and property in Bristol. Future climate change is predicted to increase the risk of flooding due to changes in rainfall and increasing sea levels, underlining the importance of our continued partnership work with Bristol City Council to develop mitigations, including the Bristol Avon Flood Strategy. This will ensure that the city continues to benefit from a high level of flood protection into the future, better protecting people, property and infrastructure while supporting proposed growth and regeneration.”

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