A flood alleviation scheme which opened a 90-metre stretch of the Cong Burn in Chester-le-Street has resulted in an award win for Esh Construction at the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) North East 30th Robert Stephenson Awards 2021.

The seven-figure project was delivered in partnership with Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Pell Frischmann. Work to open the culvert and construct the open river channel initially commenced in 2019 and included the construction of brick flood walls, a North and South riverbank and a 20-metre extension to an existing flood wall.

Chester-le-Street has a long 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.

“Being recognised by the ICE in the 30th Robert Stephenson Awards is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved. It is important to celebrate the hard work and determination that goes into such projects, particularly throughout a year which presented difficulties that no one ever could have planned for,” said, Stephen Wilkie, Executive Director of Esh Construction.


“While providing vital flood prevention for residents and businesses, the scheme has also allowed the existing market to be re-located closer to the front street in a bid to provide an economic boost to the town. Esh Construction was founded in County Durham, and Chester-le-Street Flood Alleviation Scheme is a project we are very proud to have delivered.”

The re-opening of the watercourse – for the first time in 50 years – 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.

Announcing the project as winner of the Medium Project Category Robert Stephenson Award, the judges said: “This hidden part of the infrastructure of Chester-le-Street has been opened up to provide a ‘park-like’ feel to the town centre, whilst providing well needed flood protection to homes and businesses.


The judges said they were impressed with the project team’s collaborative working to develop and construct the proposals (including significant areas of habitat creation) in a constrained working area. In addition, they noted the “close working relationship with local residents and businesses was key to ensuring that the longer-term benefits to the community will last for future generations.”

A large, combined sewer was removed from the culvert downstream of the Market Place to increase flow capacity and reduce the risk of blockages.

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

To find out more about Esh Construction, visit www.eshgroup.co.uk