Ipswich flood barrier shows off its moves as project nears completion

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Ipswich’s new flood barrier has given its first public display of how it will protect the town from the threat of storm surges from later this year.

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The barrier is being installed across the New Cut of the River Orwell and is the final piece in a £70m flood defence project for the town which has also seen river banks lifted beside the river.

Once it is fully operational, from September this year, it should help protect 1,600 homes and 400 businesses in the Waterfront area of the town centre.

And it should also reduce the flooding risk from other land in the area that is due to be developed over the next few decades.

The Environment Agency’s executive director of operations Dr Toby Willison was in Ipswich to see the gate move through water for the first time.

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Ipswich flood barrier in action. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

He said: “This is a very important moment for Ipswich and for the 1,600 properties that will soon have better protection because of this flood work.

“I have been here to see progress several times, but this is a really important phase. This is one of the biggest projects we are involved with – it is a mini Thames Flood Barrier if you like.”

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The area where the barrier is fitted is behind a cofferdam which allowed its cradle to be fitted. That was partially flooded so the barrier could be tested going through water. Its movement is slow – it is like watching the minute hand of a clock.

Over the next few months the cofferdam will be removed and the current diversion of the River Orwell will be filled in – meaning it will normally pass over the gate that will be resting on the bed of the river.

When flood tide is forecast it will be raised to prevent the excess water getting up the river to the town centre. It will take about 20 minutes to raise the barrier.

Project manager Andrew Usborne was giving no firm promises about the timescale for the final stages of the work – but he said he hoped the land would be reinstated during the summer.

As well as the barrier itself, its control centre is also nearing completion. Once the work is complete the Island site is expected to be redeveloped as an enterprise park – and eventually the flood barrier control centre is expected to become a feature of this new business area.

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