StARR is worth knowing about, an innovative project that aims to help tackle unwanted effects of climate change in the St Austell Bay area, particularly Par and St Blazey as both are built across the previous Par river estuary. Significant flooding occurs here every 1-2 years at great cost and distress. As our weather becomes ever more extreme and wet, the idea of the project is to make these areas more resilient to the increased likelihood of flooding not only by improving urban flood defences, but by buying time further up in the catchment area, by repairing existing flood defences, waterways, creating or improving water-slowing features and making water storage facilities. The Valley lies right in the middle of the catchment area and so is included in the flood abatement work, which hopefully not only reduces flood risk beyond the valley, but also benefits the Valley through the regeneration of its green and historic spaces and structures and improvements in wildlife habitat. You can find out more about StARR project here.
The ongoing risks became more evident in March 2019 when the historic riverbank of the ‘perched’ Par River was breached at Ponts Mill. Emergency work was carried out in June and July that same year to re-enforce the riverbank. Although the scale and style of repair looked quite brutal at the time, especially with trees being felled to allow access, all the work had been carried out following ecological surveys to help minimise the impact on local wildlife. The footpath was repaired and felled trees left as a dead zone to encourage a forest floor habitat. Very quickly, open ground became colonised with woodland flowers and plants and the tree stumps started to re-shoot.
Unfortunately, the repair proved more temporary than anticipated following a very wet winter when the riverbank breached once again. Although Cormac and the Environment Agency acted quickly to strengthen the affected section of bank with more fill material, it was clear that a more permanent solution was needed. This has now been developed and the construction work has been brought forward to August to reduce the risk of a further breach and flooding over the coming winter.
As with previous phases of work, the footpath from the Ponts Mill car park to the viaduct will have to be closed at times to allow vehicle access and deliveries. Cormac will aim to minimise disruption and will re-open the track to the public as soon as it is safe to do so. The current plan is to work on weekdays only, opening the track on weekends to allow people to continue to enjoy access to the Valley. It is hoped that the civil engineering and landscaping work should be complete by February 2021, just in time for the Valley to spring into life.