Woodbridge: Engineers to probe river flood defence stability

A stretch of the river wall is used by visitors to this year's Woodbridge Regatta

A stretch of the river wall is used by visitors to this year's Woodbridge Regatta

A popular riverside footpath could be temporary closed to the public if engineers find that flood defences are unstable.

The Environment Agency is planning to investigate the strength of the river wall along a stretch of the Deben in Woodbridge later this month.

The initial closure will last no longer than two days as investigators look into the condition of existing steel sheet piling installed in the early 1990s.

But further closures for assessment and coordinated works may be required over the next six months, or longer if required by the minister for environment.

The stretch of footpath due to close runs along a defence wall owned and maintained by The Environment Agency (EA). It stretches from just beyond the east side of the railway footbridge to the area of the boatyard slipway near Jetty Lane.

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Contractors plan to set up a diversion parallel to the footpath while work is carried out.

A spokesman for the EA said: “The work is part of our site investigations for sheet piled walls, such as this wall at Woodbridge.

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“It will involve some ground testing and visual condition inspection. We are expecting to do this in one day but have asked for two in case of weather delays. In the event that the investigation reveals something that needs further attention, a project will be added to our forward programme of works.

“Footpath closure approval takes eight weeks to obtain, we have requested the additional six months so that we can return to site in the event that further work are necessary.

“We strive to keep footpaths open wherever possible and keep disruption to communities to a minimum. This closure has been timed to avoid the summer holidays and if further closures are necessary we will endeavour to only do this when there is no other alternative.”

The river wall was built mainly to protect from tidal surges. Openings in the wall are protected by flood gates that are closed when unusually high tides are expected.

The main risk of flooding along the river wall is overtopping, as demonstrated by last December’s tidal surge, which flooded properties near the water, including the Tide Mill, Woodbridge Art Club and the Ferry Quay Cafe and the Waterfront Cafe.

The Deben rose higher than levels recorded in 1953, but the damage was less widespread thanks to improved flood defences.

The footpath will initially be closed from September 29-30.

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