In December 2015 severe floods hit the City of York. Flood waters rose to the highest recorded on the River Foss. Water entered the main control building of the Foss Barrier putting it out of action. Within three months work had begun on a multi-million-pound improvement scheme, upgrading the Foss Barrier to achieve better flood protection for homes and businesses.
The Environment Agency appointed JBA Bentley – an integrated design and build contractor combining national contractor JN Bentley with environmental engineering specialist Jeremy Benn Associates – as main contractor, and CH2M (now Jacobs) as designer for the upgrade.
The barrier was opened in 1988 and the upgrade was to replace the gate and its mechanical parts along with access and architectural features. Planning permission was granted on replacing like for like against the original structure.
The Foss Barrier gate is raised and lowered on steel wire ropes which are wound onto drums at either end of the glazed bridge connecting the two side towers. The physical size of the towers and the bridge were increased to accommodate new lifting equipment and to replace the access ladders with a staircase.
JBA Bentley appointed patent glazing specialist Howells to supply and install new and replacement glazing for the extended bridge. The Black Country-based business was a new supplier to the main contractor and was sourced from market.
Having overcome many awkward design issues, Howells manufactured roof and vertical patent glazing using its HG2 and HG3 self-supported glazing bars, single glazed with special laminated glass. The bars were polyester powder coated for durability.
Howells also designed and manufactured four adjustable louvres within the vertical glazing. These were a direct replacement to what was previously there and for the purpose of ventilation.
The patent glazing was fitted to a new steel framework within the structure.
“The greatest challenge was setting out and making sure that everything aligned once it was installed, given we were working with an existing structure,” comments Richard Timson, site manager JBA Bentley.
“We also had to ensure that the bridge in its new operation had no flex which would impact the glazing. This was a factor which would not be truly understood until it was put into service.
“Working with Howells was a very positive experience. They did exactly what they said they would. And given the complexity of the structure and its location, health and safety was good. Overall, we’re very impressed especially as JBA Bentley and Howells had not worked together previously.”
Improvement work to the barrier gate was finished earlier this summer and it now forms an integral part of York’s flood defences. The pumping capacity has increased, rising 30 cubic metres of water a second to 50 cubic metres of water a second, and mechanical and electrical (M&E) operating equipment has been replaced. The new 28ft tall flood gate was lifted into place in January 2021, marking a major milestone for the project.
The Foss Barrier provides protection for more than 1,200 local homes and businesses. Speaking earlier this year, Mark Fuller, project lead for the Foss Barrier improvement scheme with the Environment Agency said: “We are also investing a further £45m in other parts of the city as we construct the York Flood Alleviation Scheme that will reduce flood risk to over 2,000 properties and make the city more resilient to climate change. The Foss Barrier upgrade is a vital part of reaching that goal.”