Construction project to open 90m of culverted river provides vital flood prevention in Chester-le-Street

The project has opened up a watercourse which previously ran underneath the town’s market place.

A 90-metre stretch of the Cong Burn is now free flowing through Chester-le-Street market place for the first time in 50 years following a flood prevention scheme delivered by Esh Construction.

The town has a history of flooding and was badly affected by a severe storm in June 2012, when more than 100 homes and businesses at the northern end of the town suffered from flooding. The Cong Burn, also known as Chester Burn, was identified as one of the main causes of the problem.

Work to open the culvert and construct the open river channel initially commenced in 2019. The scheme included the construction of brick flood walls, the creation of a North and South river bank and a 20-metre extension to an existing flood wall. The use of arched red brickwork for the headwalls identifies the openings to the remaining culverts and reflects the town’s train viaduct.

The re-opening of the watercourse has enabled the creation of an enhanced and more welcoming appearance for the busy town centre. A revised market area nearer amenities features new seating and open spaces paved in Yorkstone. Surrounding the area there are bespoke underlit granite benches and planters, allowing a variety of uses for the space outside of market days.

Steve Conn, Divisional Director at Esh Construction, said: “We are pleased to mark the completion of this scheme which has provided crucial flood prevention for residents and businesses, as well as a welcoming open space within the busy Chester-le-Street market place.

“We have worked closely with the Environment Agency to ensure that works were carried out whilst protecting and enhancing important habitats as well as ensuring that fish could continue their migration upstream during all works phases.”

Delivered in partnership with Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Pell Frischmann, work completed on the project in the final quarter of 2020.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “This is a very significant scheme for Chester-le-Street. Not only will it reduce the risk of flooding to the town, but it has also helped to reinvigorate the town centre.

“The market place has moved forward to a much more prominent position closer to the high street and the whole area has a much more welcoming feel.

“With businesses set to open following lockdown, we’re hoping the refurbished market place will offer an economic boost to the town, supporting the recovery process. And, looking further ahead, the potential to hold events in the market place offers an added opportunity to attract visitors who may not have considered coming to Chester-le-Street before.”

The work has been jointly funded by Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.

“We are pleased to mark the completion of this scheme which has provided crucial flood prevention for residents and businesses, as well as a welcoming open space within the busy Chester-le-Street market place. We have worked closely with the Environment Agency to ensure that works were carried out whilst protecting and enhancing important habitats as well as ensuring that fish could continue their migration upstream during all works phases.”

Steve Conn, Divisional Director at Esh Construction
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