THE future of Godmanchester’s flood defence scheme could be in jeopardy if a funding shortfall is not found, environment officials have warned.
Almost £2m has already been spent preparing for the scheme while a £6.5m grant has been pledged through Government grants and the Anglian (Central) Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFDC).
But the scheme is still £500,000 short and Cambridgeshire county, Huntingdonshire district and Godmanchester town councils were asked by Dr Geoff Brighty, Environment Agency area manager, to plug the gap.
The county and HDC have each agreed to provide £175,000, but at an extraordinary meeting of Godmanchester Town Council on Thursday (January 5), councillors ruled they didn’t have the legal powers to contribute the remaining £150,000.
The sum is 10 times the amount the town council originally agreed to contribute towards the flood alleviation plan but, despite being told that without the money the scheme could be scrapped, councillors said their hands were tied.
Steve Wheatley, RFDC chairman, needs to convince his committee, including Milton Keynes council representatives, which is already putting £420,000 towards the scheme, to invest further in the plan when members meet tomorrow (Thursday).
“It would be madness to drop the scheme that would save more than 500 homes, but there is now a risk that the committee may not agree to the scheme now we have lost support from the town council,” Mr Wheatley said.
Godmanchester Councillor David Underwood told last week’s meeting that there were no legal powers for the council to spend £150,000 on flood prevention in the Local Government Acts – the legislation states parish and town councils should spend money on pathways, toilets and street signs.
Councillors then voted to rescind £15,000 already pledged to the scheme and to look for alternative sources of funding.
Cllr Sarah Wilson told The Hunts Post that she and her fellow Godmanchester councillors were in favour of the scheme but compared the cash demand to “asking a toddler to pay £1,000 for a packet of Rolos”.
“We will continue to support this excellent scheme but we did the right thing,” she said. “At 108 per cent of our annual precept, it would have forced us to close social amenities.”
Cllr Jason Ablewhite, HDC executive leader, told councillors that the district council could not afford £175,000 but it would find it as the plan was vital for Godmanchester.
A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “I don’t think the town council will ever get the chance to enhance and protect the town for just £150,000 again, so they needed to take the opportunity.
“They are just hoping the county council will pay their share of the money.”
■ Should the Godmanchester flood alleviation plans be scrapped? Where should the money come from? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or you can write to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB.