Fresh hope on flood defences

FLOOD defence schemes for St Neots and Godmanchester, which had been shelved for lack of funding, look set to go ahead after all. But a scheme to protect Alconbury and Alconbury Weston is still stalled. The Environment Agency has told Huntingdon s MP, Jon

FLOOD defence schemes for St Neots and Godmanchester, which had been shelved for lack of funding, look set to go ahead after all.

But a scheme to protect Alconbury and Alconbury Weston is still stalled.

The Environment Agency has told Huntingdon's MP, Jonathan Djanogly, that work costing about £1million at The Paddocks in St Neots could start in spring or summer next year.

"Due to its regional importance and the relatively lower level of funding required it is currently being progressed through the local levy programme (money raised through Cambridgeshire County Council)," the agency told Mr Djanogly.


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The three schemes were sidelined because of a wave of more urgent schemes elsewhere in the country, swamping demand for the environment department's flood defence grants budget, which is set to rise to £800million by 2010/11.

The Godmanchester scheme, estimated to cost between £5million and £6million, is too big for the local levy, but the EA's eastern region is pressing its national office to include it if funds increase next year.

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If that bid succeeds, construction could start within the next two years.

But the cost of the Alconbury scheme rose to more than £6million when it was re-assessed, pushing it down the national list of priorities as the threshold on the EA's scoring system for competing schemes rose to 28 points from the previous 19.

An agency spokesman said: "At Project Appraisal Report (PAR) stage we had an approved budget of £4,231,000 which was all-inclusive of Environment Agency costs, design and construction.

The corresponding priority score was 19 which was on the threshold at the time (November 2005) for Defra grant-in-aid."

"Once the scheme was progressed beyond PAR we re-assessed the preferred option and calculated that the total scheme costs would increase to £6,874,000. A new priority score was not calculated."

A smaller scheme was still possible when money became available, she said.

"Flood protection has been a constant concern of mine," Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post.

"I'm always in touch with the Environment Agency and they seem to have responded.

"Alconbury looks as though it's going to be very delayed, but that's not to say it's not still on the books.

I have specifically asked the EA to keep it on the schedule, so it hasn't been knocked off the list.

"I just hope there isn't an incident that means it should have been given higher priority.

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