Our City Our River: Derby flood risk management scheme

Project overview 

Our City Our River is an award-winning scheme in which Derby City Council, the Environment Agency, Binnies and other delivery partners have taken a long-term view of climate resilience for the city of Derby. The scheme has directly addressed the challenge we all face in the spatial planning along rivers through our cities to ensure we remain resilient to climate change. Our pioneering approach combined strategic objectives to:

  • reduce flood risk to protect people, property and jobs
  • maximise regeneration and sustainable development opportunities, and
  • improve the city’s natural capital by enhancing the significant heritage assets of the city.

The scheme originated in the need to reduce the significant flood risk along the lower Derwent that was stifling the city’s economy. Difficult decisions have had to be made on how to provide sustainable flood risk management to the 2250 properties at risk from flooding, including over 1450 homes, nearly 800 vital businesses, key elements of infrastructure and many important historic buildings.

The riverside corridor was characterised by derelict and vacant property that attracted antisocial activities. Regeneration aspirations were stifled as viable uses, for the most part residential, were not appropriate within the zone of high flood risk. These prominent riverside locations required a coordinated flood risk management approach so that the vacant areas could be regenerated by active and attractive uses, engaging with the river and reconnecting it to the city centre.

Raising the existing flood defences on their original alignment was simply not an option: the required height of the defences would physically sever the city; flood risk would increase in upstream communities; and there would be significant adverse impacts on the city’s historic environment. The preferred flood risk management strategy was to set back defences away from the river to make space for water and ensure the city was resilient to future challenges of climate change.

The completion of the first phase of this £95 million scheme has reduced the flood risk to over 800 residential properties and is reconnecting the city with its river. The riverside environment is being re-energised through the regeneration of derelict sites. As further riverside developments have received planning permission, we have provided confidence that developments can be resilient to the impact of climate change.

Our role

Binnies (formerly Black & Veatch) was appointed in 2010 by the Environment Agency as the engineering and environmental consultant for the appraisal stage of the scheme. We worked across the client partnership as its trusted adviser on flood risk management, working alongside the council’s masterplan consultant. We led the stakeholder and public consultation on the masterplan before preparing the scheme’s business case to secure £36 million of grant funding through the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This funding was sufficient to deliver the first phase of the scheme.

In 2015, working in a joint venture with Galliford Try, we were appointed by Derby City Council for the design and construction of approximately 3 km of flood defences through the city centre.

In managing the risk to Derby’s rich cultural heritage, which includes the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site; Derventio Roman Fort (scheduled monument); and the scheduled St Mary’s Bridge, we formed a Historic Environment Steering Group with key stakeholders, including Historic England. Our collaborative approach with stakeholders gave them personal ownership of the scheme and ensured we remained ambassadors for the stewardship of the local environment and took every opportunity to improve the natural capital by enhancing the city’s heritage assets. Such was the success of the archaeological mitigation strategy that the project is viewed by Historic England as a template for best practice in dealing with the challenges of integrating archaeological requirements with a large infrastructure scheme.

Services included:

  • flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) appraisal
  • hydraulic modelling
  • stakeholder and public engagement
  • outline design
  • business case preparation, including economic assessment
  • environmental impact assessment
  • consents and approvals, including planning application, listed building consent, scheduled monument consent and environmental permits
  • archaeological and heritage services (pre-, during and post-construction)
  • detailed design
  • construction design support.

We developed a class-leading heritage strategy in concert with key stakeholders. This included a programme of rapid interpretation, saving around six months of programme time through coordinating construction and archaeology. This approach is now recognised as best practice by Historic England.
“The first thing to stress is that this is a huge project, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a really good sample through Roman Derby under modern conditions and methods. … It requires us all to go the extra mile to wring every last drop of information out of the opportunity. This is why I was massively impressed by how the fieldwork was delivered on site – it was efficient, innovative and inspiring.”



  • Managing the risk of climate change
  • Partnership funding requirements to secure Defra Flood Defence Grant-in-Aid, introduced in 2012
  • Protect and enhance the city’s rich historic environment
  • Complex hydraulic river modelling


  • Setting the defences back away from the river to make space for water; developing a masterplan to provide the city of Derby with a clear vision and policy to promote sustainable development.
  • Broadening the project’s strategic objectives away from flood risk management to include Derby City Council’s economic growth and regeneration plan. This enabled the scheme to secure European Structural Investment Funds and European Growth and Regional Development Funds through the Local Enterprise Partnership, D2N2.
  • Forming a Historic Environment Steering Group to give stakeholders personal ownership of the scheme and to ensure we remained ambassadors for the stewardship of the local environment and took every opportunity to improve the natural capital by enhancing the city’s heritage assets.
  • Using hydrology and hydraulic modelling to help understand the critical hydraulic restrictions through Derby and to provide solutions at hydraulic throttles.

Benefits and Achievements

Award Winning

Winner of the 2020 UK Flood and Coast Excellence Award for climate resilient places

“The judges were impressed with how the scheme reduces flood risk to protect people and property by making space for water and also liked how the scheme reconnects people with the river through regeneration, community engagement, education and awareness.”


Client Satisfaction

The wider objectives of the scheme, including regeneration and the creation of new homes and jobs, opened the opportunity to secure partnership funding, including £12 million growth funding from Defra.
“This project is not just about ensuring the city is better equipped to avoid a significant future flooding event, there is an economic aspect to the works that will bring jobs, homes and growth to local communities.”


Cost Effectiveness

£10 million ecosystem services benefits identified and included in the business case, which secured an extra £500,000 grant funding.
£1 million of cost efficiencies (5%) delivered through the design of sheet piles based on form of defence, purpose of piles, and required plant for construction.

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