THANK you for publishing my letter and photograph last week in The Hunts Posts.
I would advise you and your readers that I had a meeting with representatives of the Environment Agency and Cambridgeshire County Council on Thursday last, to discuss this flooding and the control measures at the Little Paxton bridge and the lock at this location.
I understand that three sluice gates adjacent to the main river bridge are automated and respond automatically and appropriately to the state of the river flow. The sluice gate at the lock is manually controlled and is used as an additional measure to accommodate flood water flow. This gate is usually opened no more than 50 per cent of maximum height in times of flood, for safety reasons, so whilst the sluice may not appear to be "open" at times it is in accordance with the Environment Agency operating procedures.
The fact remains that when the ground is saturated, as it is now, there is always a risk that flooding of the road will occur whenever we have a high rainfall or snowfall melt and this is a design feature of the road profile - i.e the dip in the road either side of the main river bridge allows excess water to flow over the road and alleviates further flooding in the area adjacent to the bridges.
I also understand that there are no plans for a causeway or any other type of structure, such as a bridge or viaduct to be constructed at this location because of the costs involved. The authorities would need to make sure the structure did not increase flood risk upstream or downstream and I am advised that CCC has looked into the costs of a structure here. To build such structures may be expensive and neither the Government nor any other agency has the funding in place for such a project.
The fact is that this is considered a very low priority in flooding risk terms because, when flooding does occur and it inevitably causes considerable inconvenience to thousands of the travelling public, it is not considered a risk to life and a large number of properties are not at risk, whereas at other locations in Cambridgeshire the risk of flooding to properties is much higher and therefore of greater priority.
There are practical solutions available, but they could be quite expensive and it is also clear that if any solution to this problem is to be found, it will have to rely upon private funding. Also, subject to a feasibility study, I am confident that a mini-hydro scheme is viable at this location and the revenue that could be generated from this could in the long-term pay for the costs of building a causeway structure, but this would also have to be privately funded. There are specialist companies who are already successfully building similar small hydro schemes at a number of locations throughout the UK, so the expertise is available.
Therefore, it would appear that the only way forward on this is to mobilise private funding. What is really needed is a small community action group to take this forward. If anyone in the local areas that are affected by this flooding is interested in forming such a group and has the time to commit to it, then I am happy to participate, but this would need to include: a civil estimator, a civil engineer, a hydrologist, a lawyer, a web designer, an accountant, someone with fundraising experience, someone experienced in media publication, a secretary/admin manager and most importantly, someone who has considerable influential contacts with industry leaders in this area.
Above all, the vision and determination to get something done and all, of course, on a voluntary basis for the benefit of the community.
If you are interested and can commit to this project, I can be contacted through The Hunts Post. Please provide an e-mail or phone contact. If there is sufficient response I will arrange a meeting in the near future.