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Environment Agency Publishes Flooding Report

Warwick and Leamington MP, James Plaskitt, today welcomed publication by the Environment Agency of its Initial Feasibility Report on flood defences for Leamington. The main findings of the report were discussed with the MP and local councillors on Friday night. The options discussed in the report will be available for public comment via an exhibition in the Town Hall foyer.

The Agency is also producing a leaflet summarising the report. This will be distributed to every household in the areas which were affected by the flooding last Easter.

The report outlines possible options for building flood defences in the centre of Leamington. The options range in cost from 2 – 7 million. The proposals include high walls and barriers along the river’s edge as it flows through the town centre. Mr Plaskitt said,

"Huge physical flood barriers in the town centre and our parks are clearly not a viable option. The cost is excessive, and the environmental impact unacceptable."

The report also discusses the option of securing flood defence by means of ‘balancing areas’ upstream from the town centre. This involves flooding fields and meadows deliberately in order to hold back the flow of water through the town centre. Mr Plaskitt said,

"Flood balancing areas represent a more promising option, but the Radford Road allotment area suggested by the Agency is inappropriate. I think the Agency will need to examine sites further up-stream."

Ever since the publication of the Bye Report – which found failures on the part of the Agency last Easter and recommended changes in procedures – Mr Plaskitt has been calling for a flood warning exercise to be held in Leamington in order to reassure people that the warning system would work properly in the event of an other severe flood. Mr Plaskitt won backing for this from Eliot Morley MP, the minister with responsibility for the Agency. Now, the Agency has told him that it is to undertake such an exercise in the near future. Mr Plaskitt said,

"I am delighted that an exercise is going to be carried out. We need to see that the system will work in order to restore public confidence. I hope the exercise can be carried out before the first anniversary of last year’s flooding."

The Environment Agency is also looking into ways of making its warnings more informative. Although most people know about the colour codes used, few know what action they should take at various stages. The Agency is working on a simple card which can be delivered to households in the risk area. It will set out what action householders should take.

At the time of the Easter 1998 floods, very few houses in Leamington were on the ‘at-risk’ list. One of the first things Mr Plaskitt asked to be done was a full review of the list. The Agency confirms that there are now over 500 properties on the list, entitled to receive direct phone warnings of flooding. Although all have been contacted, only about 300 have agreed to receive the warning. Mr Plaskitt said,

"I would urge all those who have not yet agreed to receive the warnings to do so. Protecting property will be made easier, and it could even save a life. I think that’s more important than worries about the impact on house values."

Further information:   01926 831151

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CWN / News / Newswire / James Plaskitt MP / 22 Feb 99

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