Ruthin flooding: We need some answers…. and here’s one that won’t break the bank!

This week was one in which residents of Ruthin’s Glasdir Estate demanded answers. When buying their new homes they were assured that that flood defences meant there was only a one-in-1,000-year chance of their homes being hit. But last year over a hundred families suffered the misery of seeing their houses flooded, their property damaged and their lives disrupted.

Flooding devasted new homes in Ruthin

Flooding devasted new homes in Ruthin. Image courtesy of Jeff Jones/Flickr

The independent report published earlier this week pointed the finger at blocked culverts and Denbighshire County Council promised that ‘lessons would be learnt’. I hope they will be. But isn’t there one more lesson that we should keep in mind?

The natural environment and trees in particular can play a huge part in helping to absorb surface water run-off and thus reduce risk of flooding to thousands of homes across Wales. Broadleaved woodland is on average 67 times more effective than improved, grazed grassland at absorbing surface water run-off. In contrast traditional flood defences are notoriously expensive and at worst simply risk moving the problem downstream.

An alternative solution that won’t break the bank, is to make the natural world our ally in reducing flood risk. The scientific data collected at the Pontbren scheme in Powys, has shown conclusively that strategically planted, narrow, fenced shelterbelts of trees across slopes capture water run-off from the pasture above and allow it to soak more rapidly into the soil. Sub-catchments dominated by agriculturally improved land have higher flood peaks than those with more natural landscapes. However if tree shelter belts are located in the right places on improved land, reductions in peak flow of around 40% may be achievable.

In Wales alone the government already spends around £44 million each year to improve and expand the network of 2,900km of flood defences. The cost is expected to triple to £135 million by 2035 to cope with the risks of unsustainable land use and a changing climate.

The creation earlier this year of a new single environmental body, Natural Resources Wales, holds out the possibility of finding new, innovative and more cost efficient means of reducing flood risk, means that would positive enhance the quality of the local environment – by planting native trees in the best places for reducing flood risk.

It’s an amazing opportunity, but one that it’s fair to say, NRW has not really managed to deliver on so far. If you agree that this is an opportunity that Wales should not miss – to protect thousands of households from the misery of flooding while positively enhancing the quality of the environment – then then there’s something very positive you can do to help!

Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust) is calling on the Welsh Government to support the planting of 10 million trees (very achieveable across the whole of Wales) over five years where they will best help soak up rainfall, slow down water runoff and reduce flood risk. Over 1,500 people have already added their support. If you want to stop thousands more people having to suffer the misery of flooding, would you be willing to spend five minutes signing this petition?

The petition is available now at

Rory Francis,  Communications Officer Coed Cadw


About Kaye Brennan

Trying vegan, staying warm. Occasional bursts of words.
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Conservation, Planting, Wales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Ruthin flooding: We need some answers…. and here’s one that won’t break the bank!

  1. su says:

    Followed a Facebook link to sign a petition but cannot find the link 😦

  2. gaw001 says:

    Poignant and interesting Ruthin programme last night.
    Indeed not only woodland ‘agristructure’, but also hydraulically_strategic dense hedgerow.
    (see and )

    PS: Do the residents have a website
    George Whitworth

  3. Rwthless says:

    It seems to me that there is plenty that can be done. Requiring planning permission to tarmac a garden for a premium financial cost to be used for strategic planting of flood alleviation trees would be a good start. In my road, several houses totally flattened their front gardens and covered the area with tarmac. On one, where the householder immediately sold the property, there were drainage machines outside the house within 12 months. I must confess that we put a tarmac drive in, but we converted the concrete garden path and used perhaps another foot, leaving the other 10 foot strip, free to drain off.

    I have recommended at various times that willows be planted in areas of flooding, but nobody listens. People without the sense to walk away whinge at the noise of Crack willows, and get them felled when it is our lovely old beech that drops huge boughs on people’s heads without warning.

    A country park I have been a member of for some considerable time could now step up its activities and hold plenty of advisory meetings on such matters. I am sure there would be no shortage of people willing to pay a small sum for coffee and biscuits at such events.

    While ancient woodland needs protecting, I am also concerned at the casually destructive attitude of local authorities to landscape planning. They spend thousands on putting in bunds to hold back local flooding when a few willows would do the trick for a tiny fraction of the cost.

    • Finn Holding says:

      Planting trees would be cheaper than installing bunds if the council wasn’t saving colossal amounts of money by avoiding paying for the proper disposal of the material in the bund.

  4. edithkl says:

    Well done, I have signed the petition and also visited the site for the new single body, Natural Resources Wales.

    When I signed the petition, I put this comment in the box: “In the USA they are doing as much “greening” of city land in flood zones as possible, whether the flooding is due to rivers and rainfall, or to sea rises in coastal areas. They admit their land is in general “overbuilt” – so as well as planting trees, please stop building on any soft ground anywhere, not only in flood plains.”

    Trees and other plants, and animals, and humans too, do not like traffic fumes and more houses means more traffic if they are on the edge of cities, towns and villages – building must take place on brownfield land in town centres, so there is no need for a car.

    In any case, it is against international law to increase car fumes from their present level (which is already too high). Not only do they contain Greenhouse Gases, but new cars with catalytic converters produce nitrous oxide which is a major depleter of the ozone layer – trees do not like ozone depletion, nothing living does. They also contain dioxins which are highly toxic to all living cells and organisms.

    Under “Planning and Building”, the NRW site says they are constructing a co-ordinated “one size fits all” response to use whenever consulted about a Planning Application or whatever. I think this could be good provided it is forceful enough and quotes international law on the environment. It could be a way of delivering the vital Law in a digestible form.

  5. peteratwressle says:

    I’d certainly agree that trees are excellent at disipating flood water. In my garden, which is prone to flooding(I live in part of the wetlands that are now called the Humberhead Levels) I have a huge old willow that soaks up water and I’ve planted several more willows and some alders that have alleviated the worst of the problem. But, surely, one of the problems with flooding of new houses is building on flood plains. Before buying a house, I’d have a good look at where it’s situated in relation to rivers and ask about the history of flooding. If flood plains were left undeveloped and allowed to do their historical job of regulating river levels, there’d be much less need for flood defences, the land can be used productively for grazing in between flooding, and the natural landscape is retained. It just seems that a bit of common sense is required by developers and planning departments (but that’s probably too much to ask).

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