March Digital Drop In Review: Leeds Natural Flood Management Project

Constructing Excellence

On our Digital Drop-in session that took place on 17th March, Paul Millard from Mott MacDonald gave us an insightful presentation on their award-winning project –  Leeds Natural Flood Management. Paul explained to us the background of the project, the Woodland Carbon Code, and the web code they developed for the project.


The project was focusing on the River Aire area in Leeds, which historically suffered from significant flooding with recent events in 2007 and 2015. The ambition of the Leeds Natural Flood Management (NFM) project is to increase the future resilience of the whole scheme, with the objective to offset the predicted impacts of climate change between 2039 and 2069.

As a nature-based solution, the project aims to plant up to 2 million trees throughout the catchment of the River Aire as a natural-based solution to reduce flood risk in Leeds. Mott MacDonald assessed the difference between various types of woodlands and their impact on land and water.


Type of woodlands:


Catchment Woodland
Flood Risk Benefit: reduces runoff and increases infiltration

Cross-Slope Woodland
Flood Risk Benefit: intercepts and reduces upslope runoff

Floodplain Woodland
Flood Risk Benefit: slows flows to hold water on the floodplain

Riparian Woodland
Flood Risk Benefit: slows out of bank flows and reduces erosion


In order to understand the core of the project, we have to understand the Woodland Carbon Code. The Woodland Carbon Code (WCC) is the quality assurance standard for woodland creation projects in the UK, and generates independently verified carbon units that can be traded. Backed by the government, the process comprises of two stages, validation where the woodland creation is reviewed on its estimated carbon sequestration, and verification, where every 5 or 10 years the woodland is assessed to make sure that it is managed appropriately and the estimated sequestration* is happening.

*Woodland Carbon Sequestration is the process of increasing the carbon content of the woodland through photosynthesis which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Once sequestered the carbon is stored in the woodland within living biomass, soil and leaf litter.

The WWC Web Tool was developed in collaboration with key industry stakeholders to incentivise woodland creation on the Leeds NFM project and monitor carbon absorption. By using the ‘Proof of Concept’ method, an adaptive development process through exploration and testing, the developer was able to identify and solve key challenges to automate and simplify calculations using the WCC spreadsheet calculator. Following this step, the outputs are then used to confirm the feasibility of the initial approach and identify the next steps for developing a fully functioning web tool, as well as securing further funding. Paul demonstrated the data models and the processes taken to create the WCC Web Tool, which can be applied anywhere else in England as well.


Key challenges:

  1. Simplifying the input process using ‘standard’ woodland mixes
  2. Automating the collection of ESC data using Forest Research Application Programme Interface (API) to simplify labour intensive processes, saving hours of time for each user.
  3. Creating new data set to input land-use and soil information into WCC calculations


Next steps:

  • Complete automation of the calculation process (additional computer coding)
  • Expand to include other woodland mixes and ability to add bespoke mixes
  • Potential to develop tool for use on other projects/ national tool


Our next Digital Drop In Session will take place in May. Please follow the link below to register: Digital Drop In May – Digital Construction Week – Constructing Excellence