Completion of flood defences paves the way for investment

James Walker is benefiting from a £2.6m investment from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to protect its premises from flooding. Our Cockermouth site has been one of the region’s largest employers for the last 50 years and now has a state of the art flood defence system that will safeguard its site and secure the jobs of its existing workforce of over 400 employees.

The defence system was officially commissioned on Monday July 22nd and its completion allows the company to press ahead with further investment of nearly £10m to expand the engineering, manufacturing and testing facilities on the site and create 30 additional jobs over the coming years.

In 2015 storm Desmond brought record rainfall to this area of the UK, with over 340mm of rain falling in just 24 hours. The resulting flooding brought the town of Cockermouth to a standstill and caused significant disruption to local businesses and the community in general – a repeat of the similar flood event that occurred just six years earlier.

"To be able to offer our customers the necessary continuity of supply and have the confidence to develop our manufacturing and research capabilities, we needed to avoid any repetition of the flood events experienced in 2009 and 2015," explains Manufacturing Director Mark Brook. "We explored other options with the local and regional councils and business development organisations but these options, which included a potential move to nearby Lillyhall proved too costly and disruptive - protecting our existing site from future flood events was ultimately the most sensible option."

"Thanks to Allerdale and Cumbria councils, support from the Environment Agency, Sue Hayman our local MP and a significant investment through the Local Growth Fund from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (Cumbria LEP), we have managed to find what we hope will be an effective solution that allows us to remain on our existing site and gives us the necessary confidence to continue investing in our facilities and workforce here in Cockermouth."

Diederik Neeb, managing director of the James Walker strategic business unit adds; "Gaining this significant Local Growth Fund investment through Cumbria LEP has been critical in securing our future here at Cockermouth. This financial help to build flood defences safeguards existing jobs and paves the way for growth. We have ambitious development plans which will see in the region of £10m being invested by the James Walker Group in reinforcing the position of our Cockermouth site as a global centre of excellence for the manufacture and development of elastomeric materials and components."

Following detailed surveys of the site by Cluttons/AKS Ward, a specialist flood design and civil engineering company, a plan was approved for the erection of defences around the buildings at Gote Brow and work commenced in late summer last year.

The new protection measures have been designed to offer protection from a ‘1 in 1000’ flood event and consist of a flood wall around the production buildings, constructed with sheet piling which stands to a minimum height of 1.5m above ground and is driven into the ground by as much as 6m, to prevent ground flow.

Automated floodgates are built-in for the main vehicle access points and several pedestrian floodgates at key access points, whilst two high-volume pumping stations with a capacity to pump over 21,000 litres of water per minute will be able to evacuate any water that gathers inside the defences. The whole defence system is configured so that a single person will be able to effectively seal off the entire site in just 20 minutes, in the event of a flood warning.

To accommodate the water that will be displaced by the defences, the grounds of the site have been reprofiled to include two large swales, with a joint capacity of over 11,000m3, designed to ensure that the project does not have any adverse effect on neighbouring properties.

All work involved in the building of the defences and installation of ancillary equipment has been carried out by Story Contracting, in line with the James Walker policy of supporting the local supply chain wherever possible.

Corinne Watson, Growth Programme Manager for Cumbria LEP described the project as an excellent example of public/private cooperation that was securing jobs and future investment for the region. "By providing investment from our Local Growth Fund we will help to secure the James Walker site and give the company a platform for future business growth.  It’s an opportunity to invest in a strong local business, safeguard over 400 jobs and give the company the confidence to press ahead with its investment plans. This not only retains an important local employer within the area but also significant engineering and manufacturing expertise which is crucial to the supply chain of many other major businesses in the wider region."

23 July 2019

Back to top