The Environment Agency is considering letting one of south London’s rivers break free of its concrete shackles and helping to “re-wild” one of Croydon’s parks in an effort to reduce the risks of flooding.
The EA is staging an event next month to inform residents in Norbury and Thornton Heath of measures it wants to take to help reduce the risk of flooding along the course of Norbury Brook and the River Graveney.
The EA has identified 800 commercial and residential properties at risk in an area that has previously been subject to significant flooding.
Three options are being considered.
• The construction of a storage area for flood waters in Norbury Park, combined with the restoration of a stretch of the River Graveney.
• The construction of a flood storage area in Thornton Heath Recreation Ground.
• The construction of combined flood storage areas at Norbury Park and Thornton Heath Recreation Ground.
Most of the time, deep in its made-made channel, Norbury Brook is overlooked and forgotten.
The Brook rises near Lower Addiscombe Road and flows through Selhurst. A short stretch of this is visible at Heavers’ Meadow, near Selhurst train station, before disappearing beneath Selhurst Road. It reappears in Thornton Heath Recreation Ground, running along the western boundary of the park in another deep concrete channel.
Most of the time the brook is fairly shallow, but during heavy rainfall water quickly drains from the adjacent built up areas and the water level rapidly rises. It then continues behind several private houses in between before reaching Norbury Park where, once again, it is hidden behind a tall fence.
Norbury Brook forms the boundary between Croydon and Streatham at London Road. Norbury Brook becomes the River Graveney west of London Road, where it flows off towards Tooting, joining the River Wandle and on to the Thames at Wandsworth.
Removing the Brook’s concrete culverts in Norbury Park, and restoring its natural channel, could see improvements in water quality as well as the creation of wetland habitats for wildlife. The Environment Agency will also explore the environmental benefits of other options.
The chosen scheme would be delivered by the Environment Agency in partnership with Croydon Council. The Environment Agency is also working with Thames Water to promote sustainable drainage schemes to reduce the amount of surface water run-off, which can lead to flooding.
Stuart King, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “This is an important project that offers local traders and residents living close to Norbury Brook reassurance that everything’s being done to safeguard them against possible flooding.
“I’d urge as many people as possible to attend the drop-in event at the tennis club, so that they’re aware of the options and have the chance to ask any questions they may have.”
The event takes place on February 16 at Norbury Park Lawn Tennis Club, 55 Ederline Avenue, Norbury SW16 4RZ, and is open from noon to 7pm.
For more information about the flood-alleviation scheme, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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There are a number of very successful projects like to this in Lewisham and Greenwich, where similar small rivers have been liberated from their ugly and sterile concrete culverts, and have been given a re-engineered “naturalised” bed and banks, incorporating gravel beds and boulders to create pools and riffles, places for fish to spawn and feed, and also places to take refuge away from the main current in times of storm and high water flow.
The most impressive I have seen is close to Lewisham town centre, at Elmira Street , where the Ravesnbourne River used to run a few inches deep through a concrete culvert, except in storm conditions where the water rose quickly, sweeping any natural life away. There were no fish, no water weeds, no water birds, and the river was no more than a drain.
After the sympathetic re-engineering, the banks are natural slopes, vegetated with grasses and waterside wild plants, and the river now holds water a few feet deep in places, with pools linked by gravel runs where the water becomes oxygenated.
The thing that really impressed me was that there were dozens of large fish, and some ducks.
All in all, a really attractive re-born river, that looked just how a river should be, and amazing, considering this is in Inner London.
The Norbury Brook should be capable of being similarly re-born, and thereby re-vitalise any parks through which it flows. There is nothing like water to give an attractive focus to a park.
A great initiative, and really good news for parks users and wildlife, in my view !