Work on flood defences finishes for year but design changes mean project will be delayed

The Environment Agency has completed the third phase of Ouse Washes work. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The Environment Agency has completed the third phase of Ouse Washes work. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

A programme of work to improve flood defences along the Ouse Washes flood storage reservoir has been completed by the Environment Agency for this year, but delays mean the project will take longer than expected to complete.

The agency project to raise the middle level barrier bank (MLBB) and part of the south level barrier bank (SLBB) will maintain the level of protection provided to more than 2,000 properties and 165,000 acres of agricultural land across parts of Huntingdonshire and Fenland.

The project is taking place over several years, beginning in 2017. This year's work started in July and, in order to minimise the impact on the environment on and around the washes, had to be completed by October 31.

The construction works were originally estimated to take place over four summers, with a further year allowed to establish the new grass cover, finishing in 2021. However, they will now take long to complete.

The detailed design work continued through the winter period 2018-19. The evolving design resulted in a change to the intended bank profile, increasing the footprint of the MLBB and increasing the need to import more material.

This additional work, along with periods of wet weather, resulted in the construction programme being extended, the Environment Agency said.

Claire Jouvray, Environment Agency operations manager for the Great Ouse catchment, said it was a vital scheme for people living in communities nearby.

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She said: "We've had a really challenging year this year with road works impacting deliveries and the wet weather in September and October stopping work on the bank.

"Thanks to partners, our contractors, neighbours and local authorities we have been able to keep disruption to a minimum.

"We'd like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding during this complex programme of work which will take longer than predicted at the outset.

"We will be holding public drop in events in the new year to showcase the work we have done so far, to outline the revised timescale for this vital scheme and discuss our plans for the Welney Wash road temporary barrier."