MP says flood defence must be raised

RIVER NENE: A 10ft tidal surge swept up the river in December. SG240913-251TW
RIVER NENE: A 10ft tidal surge swept up the river in December. SG240913-251TW

MP John Hayes is throwing his weight behind a campaign to raise flood defences at Sutton Bridge now the Environment Agency says the work cannot be “justified or afforded”.

Sutton Bridge Parish Council wants the east and west riverbanks of the Nene raised following a near catastrophic, 10ft tidal surge on December 5.

In the aftermath, parish council vice-chairman Michael Booth described the village as being “two inches from disaster” as the water came close to overtopping the banks.

The Environment Agency’s John Ray has told the parish council: “The defences around The Wash are currently fit for purpose in that they reduce the risk of flooding to an appropriate standard for the area they protect.”

He said defences outperformed their design standard in December and over the next 100 years the agency will sustain the current level of protection around The Wash, although this is “subject to affordability and other assessments, such as technical and environmental.”

Mr Ray also said: “I must be honest and say it is unlikely the funding required for significant raising of the defences could be justified or afforded.”

The South Holland and The Deepings MP met the Environment Agency last week and highlighted his concerns about plans for an EDF gas-fired power station on the banks of the Nene when the river is subject to tidal surges.

The Environment Agency hasn’t objected to the power station application, although it has asked for parts of the site to be raised.

But Mr Hayes said: “They are not prepared to make the flood risk any less because they are not prepared to improve the defences – they can’t have it both ways.”

Sutton Bridge parish councillor Chris Brewis says everyone must speak with one voice to get the sea defences raised.

The December 5 surge exceeded that of 1953, which claimed more than 300 lives on the east coast.

Coun Brewis said: “The infrastructure, especially generating power and food production from the vegetable garden of Britain, make protection of this area essential.

“We need to raise the banks and may need to be very innovative in doing that in these times of cash scarcity. The tidal stretches of the Nene, Welland, Ouse and Witham Haven all need serious attention following the events of December 5. We will all have to speak with one, unanimous voice to get the attention and action we need.”

Mr Hayes said: “The Environment Agency don’t seem to address the matter with the same seriousness the parish council obviously thinks they should have done. I support the parish council on this and I am more than happy to take it up.”