Service personnel have played a key part in reducing the flood risk to homes and businesses across Yorkshire – and they’ve done it in record time.
The military was asked to support the work of the Environment Agency as it set about assessing hundreds of thousands of flood prevention assets across England.
Soldiers, sailors and airmen, both Reserve and Regular, were tasked with inspecting around 9,440 flood risk sites across the Yorkshire area.
The job was expected to take six weeks to complete but, after working six days a week, it ended on Tuesday – 14 days ahead of schedule.
The inspection work came about as part of Operation PITCHPOLE; a Military Aid to Civillian Authorities programme which began after the flooding that hit many parts of the country earlier this year.
The soldiers are part of a 200-strong body of personnel that were tasked to undertake the inspections in February as announced by the Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond. The soldiers spent a week training with Environment Agency flood defence inspectors at Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham.
They then travelled around the region’s coastlines, rivers, culverts and reservoirs using electronic tablets and other devices to look at weirs, river banks outflows and debris screens, recording any defects and reporting them to the Environment Agency.
Seventeen servicemen and women carried out the inspections across Yorkshire – some walked up to 20 kilometres a day and they each inspected an average of 550 assets per day. Most of the military personnel working in the region were from the Army, with two inspectors from the Royal Navy and four from the Royal Air Force.
Major Ash Lawes, who ran Op PITCHPOLE in Yorkshire, said: “The inspectors have worked well and have completed ahead of schedule. In the main they have enjoyed being out on the ground seeing some lovely parts of the country they would not normally see. The military is used to training and working in all conditions and although in some case the terrain was tough, thankfully the weather was kind and acted in our favour.”
Matt Crump, Environment Agency Operations Manager, said: “We are grateful for the assistance the Ministry of Defence has been able to provide our asset inspectors.
“This has helped us gain a clearer picture of the current condition of local flood defences – which were put under significant pressure during storms, high tides and record levels of rainfall this winter. Understanding the condition of these assets will enable us to better manage flood risk going forward.
“Our next steps are to assess the impact any damaged defences have on the risk of flooding to local people so that we can prioritise repairs and to ensure local communities understand their flood risk and can prepare accordingly.”