The Netherlands helps Wisbech with flood-resilient area development

Published: 8 June 2017

Dutch water experts will help the English town of Wisbech with a development plan for a new, flood-resilient, residential area. Deltares, Royal HaskoningDHV and Nelen & Schuurmans will be working with the English drinking water company Anglian Water to create a new, safe and sustainable, residential area as part of the Wisbech2020 initiative. They propose an innovative approach that gets stakeholders involved from the early stages of the project. For this approach, called TRICO, they already received an English award last year.

TRICO approach

TRICO stands for ‘Toolset for Rapid Interactive Collaborative Optioneering’. The method gets stakeholders closely involved in the development of the overall solution design using innovative visualisation techniques (such as a MapTable, and fast hydrological models to simulate flooding). In addition, the approach addresses more factors than flood defences only, such as cascading effects involving critical infrastructure, leisure opportunities, habitats and landscape quality.

Dana Stuparu (Deltares project manager): This project is a very nice example of a truly integrated approach to flood risk management for the town of Wisbech, in which all stakeholders will join forces to combine work on water safety with urban development. From Deltares, we will provide expert input from a wider perspective, and we will contribute to the translation of hydraulics to risk and opportunity metrics.

Strict regulations

There are plans to develop a new urban area in Wisbech with approximately 10,000 homes. This area will potentially reduce the population pressure on the nearby city of Cambridge. However, the proposed new area is situated in a flood-prone zone with strict building regulations. Permission is given only for a sustainable, innovative approach.  With this ambition, Wisbech turned to the Netherlands to jointly explore possible flood reduction solutions.


The Netherlands as a source of inspiration

The UK experiences flooding in some of its numerous river basins every few years (resulting in annual damages of 1 billion on average). There is a multi-year programme to tackle high-risk areas, which are often complex situations in which it is necessary to take multiple interests into account. Severe delays frequently result and there is a risk of support being eroded as a result of overly technocratic solutions. Additionally, UK faces a major national housing shortage. In flood-risk areas, housing construction has been seriously discouraged since 2000. The procedures mean it is possible, but very difficult, to make an exception for plans with a sustainable safe design (for flood defences, water management and infrastructure). The Netherlands is seen as a source of inspiration for exceptions of this kind.


The project is being co-supported and co-financed by Partners for Water (Dutch government).