Flood defence could lead to new homes

LAND for thousands of new homes could become available if finance is found for a multi-million pound flood defence scheme.A new barrage, boosting flood protection in Ipswich, would reduce the flood risk over hundreds of acres of land – potentially paving the way for more development, including the likes of "exclusive" riverside flats.

By David Green

LAND for thousands of new homes could become available if finance is found for a multi-million pound flood defence scheme.

A new barrage, boosting flood protection in Ipswich, would reduce the flood risk over hundreds of acres of land - potentially paving the way for more development, including the likes of "exclusive" riverside flats.

However, plans for the structure upstream of Ipswich Docks may be scuppered because it is the most costly of the options being examined in order to boost the town's flood defences.


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Low lying areas in Ipswich, either side of the Orwell and Gipping, are currently protected by a series of concrete walls and flood gates built more than 20 years ago and now coming to the end of their projected lifetimes.

The Environment Agency, responsible for flood protection, believes the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will not fund the barrage scheme - which would control tidal and river flows -because of its cost.

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The cheapest, and the option most likely to be chosen, is the raising of the existing defences, a scheme which will also seek visual improvements.

The raising of the height of the defences is necessary in the light of sea level rise and the latest flood risk assessment.

According to the Environment Agency, both Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council have expressed a "strong preference" for the barrage scheme but neither has so far agreed to help finance the scheme - to help make up for the expected deficit in DEFRA funding.

The councils are attracted by the prospect of permanently raised water levels - in non flood alert situations - to extend the current waterfront area in the town centre and fear raising the existing defences could cause an eyesore.

Stan Jeavons , operations team leader for the Environment Agency, said: "The issue at the moment is how the difference between the least cost option and the barrage can be met because we in the agency would not get grant aid on the difference.

"We need to know whether local councils and other interested parties can come up with additional money which would allow the more costly scheme to go ahead and stimulate more urban regeneration."

Peter Monk, public protection portfolio holder for Suffolk County Council, said the owners or developers of the land which would be "freed" by the barrage could help finance the barrage scheme.

Even if it was finally decided to raise the existing flood defences, the cost of making them visually attractive should not fall entirely on the Environment Agency because the improvements would benefit others, he said.

"The value of some riverside properties has already increased from £200,000 to £400,000 in a year and visual improvement of the flood defences will make these properties even more attractive.

"I'm in favour of improving the defences but there are others who should contribute to the cost of making them look nicer, if that's what they want," he added.

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