Flood defence work under way

A MAJOR scheme to upgrade flood defences in the anticipation of rising sea levels has begun in Ipswich today with the installation of new lock gates.

Russell Claydon

A MAJOR scheme to upgrade flood defences in the anticipation of rising sea levels has begun in Ipswich today with the installation of new lock gates.

An 800 tonne crane is manoeuvring the 11m high new flood gates into place at the entrance to the Wet Dock in the town.

The gates, each weighing 45 tonnes, were built in Holland and sailed over to the Port of Ipswich on a tug boat.

Work is being carried out a week later than planned after the crane which was due to install the new gates collapsed. A new one had to be brought down from Scotland to carry out the job.

A team of divers are also involved in the operation, with the task of swimming down to check the gates are properly located on pins just 150mm in diameter and to check the seals.

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The gates will be tested for the first time at high tide tonight.

Andrew Usborne, an Environment Agency project manager in charge of the scheme, said: “The installation of the new gates is the first step in our plan for upgrading defences for Ipswich.

“The old gates were broken. They had cracked and we had to replace them and we have taken the opportunity to raise them to the new flood defence level.

“This is because of rising sea levels taken into account in designing and building these new gates.

“They will provide Ipswich with a one in 300 year flood defence system in 100 years time and we will start on the east and west banks work in 2009.”

Currently the town is safe only against a tidal surge between one in 20 and has a one in 100 chance of flooding in any one year.

The £1.5million project to install the new gates was the first stage of a £50million scheme to protect the town from a tidal surge.

It will also include the construction of a £30million barrier across the River Orwell at the New Cut - due to be in place by 2012 - and aims to protect 2,300 homes from flooding.

Ipswich lies on a flood plain and has seen construction of hundreds of apartments and flats over the last several years.

Ipswich Borough Council and the Environment Agency have also announced river banks along the Waterfront near Bath Street and at the entrance to the town's wet dock will be raised. Work on the west bank defences is expected to start during summer 2009.

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