Villages at risk of flooding due to lack of funding

RESIDENTS living in villages surrounding Weston have been abandoned to their fate after flood defences designed to protect them were put on hold.

RESIDENTS living in villages surrounding Weston have been 'abandoned to their fate' after flood defences designed to protect them were put on hold.

The Environment Agency (EA) failed to get backing from the Government for a £6-8million flood defence scheme to protect Weston's outlying villages because it did not meet the 'right criteria'.

Work to strengthen the banks of the Congresbury Yeo river to protect villages including Hewish, Wick St Lawrence and Congresbury was due to begin in 2009, but has now been delayed after the Government decided not back the scheme.

However, the move has been described as 'madness' by residents who could soon find themselves in deep water as they live in areas at the highest risk of flooding.

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Wick St Lawrence Parish Council's clerk, Colin Hill, said: "We are very concerned because people tend to think of flooding as tidal rather than from rivers, but river flooding too can be tremendous. I do not think some people understand how serious this is."

Current defences only protect against a one-in-10-year flood, not the recommended one-in-200-year standard.

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An agency spokesman said: "The design is to upgrade the existing tidal banks which provide protection to the towns and villages along the Congresbury Yeo.

"Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in securing funding from the £25million pot set aside for the Wessex Regional Flood Defence Committee, which covers Somerset, Dorset, parts of South Gloucestershire and Bristol.

"We are hopeful of getting funds next year if we meet the right criteria but work will not start until 2010 at the earliest as the work has to be completed in the summer months."

Weston MP John Penrose said: "I was shocked to learn the EA has abandoned the area to its fate.

"A few weeks ago I watched one of the highest tides of the year at Tutshill Sluice, when the water came to the very brim of the bank.

"Thankfully the weather was calm but a winter storm could mean the Yeo would burst its banks, threatening thousands of local homes and businesses."

* Residents in Worle have also expressed concern at the lack of protection for the area after repeated floods in the last few years.

Worle Community Centre chairman Joan Thompson said: "It is madness. The High Street has been flooded so many times that insurance in bound to go up. It has got worse since they built more houses as less water gets soaked up by the soil.

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