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Rain gardens work to start in New George Street

Old Town Street

Preparation work ahead of a significant phase of work on New George Street gets underway this week.

Contractors Morgan Sindall will start creating rain gardens in New George Street as part of the new ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage’ system (SUDs).

The first of eight large holes in the ground will be reinforced and layered with material so that at times of very heavy rainfall, the area will be protected from flooding and the water used to irrigate new plants and trees that will be planted there. The rain gardens range in size from 15.3 cubic metres to 128.6 cubic metres and collectively will be able to handle up to 421 cubic metres of rainwater.

In order to carry out the work, the contractors need more space around the holes, so from this week the hoardings and the giant blocks that weigh them down will be moved from the House of Fraser side of the construction site. In its place will be temporary fencing and acoustic screening to reduce the level of site noise.

New work being done

Work began on site in November 2021 with ground investigation, drainage, service diversions and site clearance with the enabling contractor. This was completed in April 2022. Morgan Sindall Ltd were awarded the next phase of works in August 2022, but also encountered significant problems digging beneath a city centre that was hastily rebuilt after the war. Voids, Blitz rubble, filled-in cellars and a maze of utilities has slowed the scheme down. The design team returned to the drawing board to ensure that the plans adapted to these unstable conditions. This design review is now complete and the construction team will be back on site next week (14 August).

Deep beneath New George Street a section of the planned new storm water sewer has now been created. Excess water from the rain gardens will feed into the new system, taking rain water away from the combined sewer and helping to guard against future flooding.

The new system comprises a series of large plastic pipes – the largest 1.5 metres across and acts as a storage system during heavy rain, holding around 215 cubic metres of rainwater and releasing this gradually via a constrained outfall, known as a hydrobrake.

New George Street work being carried out

Rain that falls onto hard surfaces in New George Street will be first captured by the rain gardens, which collect water and irrigates the trees and plants which will be planted there. Eventually this system will link up with the new sustainable urban drainage scheme for Armada Way.

Cabinet Member for Finance Councillor Mark Lowry said: “We said we would get these projects moving again and we are. We need to get our city centre opened back up and cleaned up.

“Traders, residents and visitors need to see our city centre looking its best and this has taken far too long. We are committed to getting this done as fast as we possibly can.”

Steve Hughes, chief executive of the Plymouth City Centre Company, said: “We have been disappointed with the delays to this scheme and have been pressing the council for some time to speed things up.

“We are pleased that there now appears to be a renewed sense of urgency and look forward to the improvements and the re-opening of that section of New George Street in time for Christmas shopping which will be vital for our businesses.”