The St Austell Bay Resilient Regeneration (STARR) project
StARR Project
This article has been submitted by Tom Fletcher of the Environment Agency. He would very much like to hear your comments regarding the article and the issue. Please email us at [email protected] to contribute to the discussion.

What is the StARR Project?

The St Austell Bay Resillient Regeneration (StARR) Project is a project to reduce flood risk in the Par and St Blazey Area. The name originally came from links to the St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF) because there was a need to raise funds for the Project from European Funding that is linked to economic regeneration - it was useful to link the Project to SABEF to demonstrate how reducing flood risk would help the local economy.
It is a Project being undertaken by a partnership of organisations – The Environment Agency, Cornwall Council, South West Water, the West Country Rivers Trust, University of Exeter and others. The Project has actually been ongoing for 2– 3 years (survey and outline design stage), and is about to go into its detailed design and construction stage. We anticipate construction for some elements to start in 2019/20 and the whole thing to be finished by 2022.

Reducing Flood Risk

Many of the homes, businesses and infrastructure of Par and St Blazey sit in the bed of a former estuary – boats even used to be able to sail up and dock at Ponts Mill at the base of the Luxulyan Valley! However, over the last few hundred years, the former estuary has become silted up with material bought downstream as a result of tin and clay mining in the upper River Par catchment. The natural river has also been raised up and split in two to drain through the town in the form of the River Par and Treffry Canal.
There is a chronic flooding problem in the Area. During wet periods, it seems there can be some kind of flooding almost every week. Every few years there can be more problematic flooding, and every 10 to 20 years there can be major flooding – with predictions of climate change, this could get even worse. Therefore, something needs to be done about this problem.

Part of the Reason Why There is a Flooding Problem in Par and St Blazey – Raised Channels above the Town in a Former Estuary – Cross Section of the Town at the Football Ground

There is an existing flood defence system in the Area (built in the 1970s) to both drain away flooding from immediate rainfall (surface water), from water that is bought into the area by the rivers (fluvial) and from when the tide rises and water pushes in from the sea (tidal).
The defences take the form of highway drains, flood walls, electric pumping stations, channels, walls, dams, reservoirs, sluice gates – many of which are all around in Par and St Blazey. In fact, the Par and St Blazey Flood Defence system is one of the most complex and highly maintained in Cornwall. It is maintained by a number of different organisations and individuals – the Environment Agency, Cornwall Council, South West Water and individual riverside property owners.

The Highway Dam (Behind the Highway Garage/St Blazey Railway Crossing) filling up with Flood Water in 2014

However, these defences are now quite old and cannot cope with the levels of flooding that are now experienced. The Project will repair these existing defences and install more to cope with new demands put on the system to ensure that the chronic flooding problem is now dealt with.
We will hold events in the near future to give more details. But in the meantime, visit the Project website to find out more.