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We’re ready for the floods, insists EA

Government body promises no repeat of last winter’s devastation

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RISING WATERS: Bridge city councillor Simon Cook, MP Julian Brazier, and KCC councillor for Canterbury South East Michael Northey examine the repaired flood defences

THE Environment Agency (EA) says it is ready to tackle any flooding in Canterbury this year, despite admittng that more needed to be done to protect homes. Since the heavy rainfall of last December, January and February which rendered some villages inaccessible and hundreds of homes flooded, crews from the Environment Agency and Southern Water have introduced new flood measures in the district, including a raised floodgate in Bridge, removable bollards in Barham, and new flood barriers ordered for Kingston. But Ian Nunn, operations manager at the EA admitted their work on the Great Stour would not be finished until next year. Speaking during a tour of the district’s villages last week, he said:

“The water levels on the hills are as high now as they were at the end of January last year so, in that sense, we’re six weeks ahead. It all depends on what happens this winter. What we don’t need is more rain. It is very unlikely we will face the levels of rainfall we saw last year again this year.”

Worried

While a lot of work has been done on the Little Stour residents have said they are worried that the trees on the Great Stour haven’t been cleared. Mr Nunn said the agency was planning on carrying out this work, which will drastically reduce the flood risk, but had been held up by legislation. He said:

“There is a process we have to go through; we need to check for bats and other species so that we don’t destroy their habitat. Right now, we’re hoping to clear the trees using a barge from January 5 until March 14, when the bird nesting season forces us to stop.”

But Martin Twyman, of the Little Stour and Nailbourne River Management Group, said he was worried the work might not be possible.

“My concern is, if the weather is bad before January the barge won’t be able to go down the river; we can’t use it. I don’t see that plan happening.”

During the tour Canterbury’s MP Julian Brazier said there had been “real progress” over the year, and vowed to petition other MPs to secure the district a share of the flood defence fund announced during George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. He added:

“I will write to ministers about it. I am really keen for our district to secure some of this money.”

Mr Brazier also blamed the legislation protecting wildlife for holding up the EA’s work, saying;

“It is ridiculous and unbelievable that the essential clearance of trees on the Great Stour has been held up by the need to conform to the laws on animal and bird habitats and I am concerned that these are given priority over people’s houses and livelihoods. I will be supporting the Environment Agency’s bid for money for dredging key blockages in the Great Stour”

The EA has pledged there will be no repeat of last year’s devastation. A spokesman said:

“We are ready to react this time.

Herne Bay Times, December 17th 2014

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