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Cockermouth, Cumbria


A key section of an Environment Agency (EA) and local authority partnership funded flood defence scheme has recently been completed in Cockermouth, Cumbria. The scheme, afforded planning consent in early 2012 by Allerdale Borough Council, encompassed a number of flood protection solutions to protect homes and businesses from flooding. The unique passive flood defence system was specified for a key section of the scheme along Rubby Banks Road to mitigate the risk of flooding to the local community.

Cockermouth has been victim to some of the most voracious flooding events in recent history, most memorably in 2009 when the Rivers Derwent and Cocker both broke their banks after a record 314mm (12.3 inches) of rainwater fell in just 24 hours.

Water levels subsequently rose 2.5 metres and river flow reached 10 m/s, resulting in total damages of £276.5 million, with £129m of this to businesses and the local economy.

The area situated by the River Cocker is designated as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). The Environment Agency and local residents were looking for not only a cost effective solution, but also one that would not adversely affect the unique landscape. Cockermouth holds much heritage value as a beautiful market town and it was vital to the scheme that this was maintained.


The first generation passive flood defence system provided a solution which would have little or no aesthetic impact on the environment and has the considerable advantage of not requiring any intervention during a flood warning, which would otherwise put lives at risk, with a design life of 100 years, and requiring minimal maintenance, this system makes a strong economic case too. With zero operational costs the barrier has none of the high on-going expenditure associated with manually operated systems. When not in use the barrier is protected underground and out of site, the river views so important to both residents and tourists would remain unaffected, whilst effective flood protection would be in place ready to deploy 24 hours a day.

Working together with Volker Stevin, our specialist technical staff manufactured a tailor-made passive system to meet the requirements of the project. The barrier was implemented along 115 linear metres of the riverbank and designed to rise in one singular continuous motion.  On deployment the system rises to 1 metre, providing the required one-in-100-year protection above the existing wall.

The system has also been designed with a telemetry device to advise via text or email when the barrier starts to deploy. The device can also be linked to warning beacons, audible warnings and CCTV if required.

"The passive self activating barrier will offer protection to over 400 homes and businesses and give the residents a piece of mind for the future. ‘The residents and businesses of Cockermouth have suffered from severe flooding and so I am delighted that they now have a new state-of-the-art flood defence barrier that will better protect them…"

Richard Benyon
Secretary of State for the Natural Environment