MP’s concerns over flood barrier changes

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LOCAL MP, Steve Barclay, has raised concerns over the proposed changes to the flood barrier protection around Coates, Eastrea and Whittesey being considered by the Environment Agency as part of their plans for the Whittlesey Washes.

The North and South Bank Barriers of the Whittlesey Washes Reservoir have been assessed as inadequate for a very extreme weather incident and cannot be left unchanged for fear of an uncontrolled breach. The Environment Agency has reviewed a range of options and settled upon the construction of a spillway in the South Barrier Bank east of Whittlesey.

In a meeting held in Coates last week, the Environment Agency admitted that the spillway solution was preferred on the grounds that it was the most cost effective, suggesting that alternative solutions, such as building up the barrier (which could prevent the flooding altogether), would come at a much greater expense. The solution has not been welcomed by all parties.

Steve Barclay has questioned, firstly, how the likelihood or ‘rarity’ of such an event has been measured. Constituents have pointed out that the climate is no longer as predictable as it has been in the past and we are seeing natural anomalies more frequently.

Mr Barclay said: “Significant concerns could also be raised about the rigour given to the consultation process that the Environment Agency purports to undertake. A significant flaw in that process stems from the fact that, although the internal drainage board are the experts on the subject, they are not Statutory Consultees. Therefore, while it is good practice to consider their advice, it can effectively be ignored.”

He has raised a further question about the fact that the Agency has applied internal criteria in order to conclude that the spillway is the only credible option. He commented: “If the Agency has already concluded this, it is unclear what the effect of the consultation exercise would be. Moreover, while maintaining that the work will be subject to consultation, it transpires that the Agency have already begun inviting tenders for the works from local contractors.” Mr Barclay concluded: “Perhaps the largest contradiction arises from the position maintained by the Environment Agency, that flooding in the area would only result from an extremely rare event. Yet the Agency are addressing the matter with enough urgency to justify a £5 million spend to address the possibility next year.”

The MP has arranged a public meeting to be held on Friday January 13 with the venue to be confirmed.