A PIONEERING scheme to protect dozens of homes from flooding along Slad Brook could also provide a £250,000 a year boost to the local economy, it has been claimed.

Water 21, the not-for-profit organisation behind the plans, believes it can safeguard homes and deliver huge financial benefits by creating a series of holding ponds to store rainwater on the slopes of the Slad Valley.

The ponds and seasonal swales – designed to stop water cascading down the steep sided valley by capturing excess run-off – would be built into a network in order to aid farmers and increase food production by improving drought resistance.

Some could also be used as fisheries and leisure facilities and would help promote biodiversity.

As part of the project, around a dozen mills across the valley could also be restored so they contribute to flood alleviation and generate hydropower.

The ambitious scheme was first proposed by Water 21 in 2007 but it failed to get off the ground as the Environment Agency opted to pursue a different approach to flood management by working instead with engineering consultants from the Halcrow Group.

But after that partnership collapsed because of cost in October 2010, the EA invited Water 21 back into the fold.

They have since completed a six-month survey of the Slad Valley and drawn up detailed flood mitigation proposals.

Sarah Lunnon, chairman of the Slad Brook Action Group, praised the work of Water 21 and said she hoped it would lead to a lasting solution.

"There is no other fix to the problem of flooding in the Slad Brook. If we do not have any upstream attenuation then we leave people at risk of being flooded," she said.

Julian Jones, director of Water 21, believes the plans would prevent a repeat of the misery caused during the 2007 floods and bring a quarter of a million pounds annually to the community.

"It is highly profitable for landowners to store water on their land," he said.

Mr Jones, who co-ordinates Water 21’s MSc environmental engineering students, says 50 years of chemical farming around Stroud has exacerbated the risk of flooding in the district.

Two weeks ago the SNJ reported that hundreds of householders across the area are struggling to get flood insurance.

Mr Jones believes a greater focus needs to be placed on long-term flood and drought solutions rather than short-term fixes.