The Environment Agency has started the next phase of work to maintain and improve flood defences around the Ouse Washes reservoir near Earith.

The £27million project to raise the middle level barrier bank (MLBB) and part of the South Level Barrier Bank (SLBB) will take place over four years and will help protect thousands of homes in the area.

The first phase was completed in 2017.

The work is being carried out by contractor JacksonHyder on behalf of the Environment Agency.

Work is now under way on the MLBB between Earith and Welmore Lake Sluice, including works at the RSPB reserve at Welches Dam. On the SLBB works are taking place between Sutton Gault and Chain Corner.

The project includes the construction of a temporary bridge over the Counter Drain and construction of an access route direct from Bridge Farm quarry in Earith for the MLBB works between Earith and Mepal.

Claire Jouvray, Environment Agency operations manager for the Great Ouse catchment, said it was a vital scheme that will maintain the level of protection provided to more than 2,000 properties and 67,000ha of agricultural land.

She said: "In order to minimise the impact on the environment, our construction works will only take place between July 15 and October 31.

"We have been working closely with our partners including Natural England, RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust enabling us to undertake maintenance, vegetation clearance, grass cuts and environmental surveys in readiness for construction works to start.

"This has helped us to identify areas where we need to put in measures to avoid unnecessary disturbance to wildlife.

"This is an important project and we appreciate the patience of the local community as we undertake the work."

Notice boards displaying project information and contact details are located on the bank near Earith Sluice, in the Anchor Inn car park at Sutton Gault, at Welches Dam on the RSPB Reserve and near the old parish hall at Welney.

As part of the work, we will be holding weekly surgeries for members of the public to speak with a public liaison officer.

These will be held between 10am and 12pm from July to October 31 on:

- Wednesdays in Earith at Rectors Hall.

- Thursdays at the RSPB reserve, Manea.

- Fridays in Welney at the project site office.