£60m pledge to Thames flood scheme

Res­i­dent says Con­ser­va­tives can’t claim a vic­tory when they caused dam­age in the first place

Egham News - - INSIDE - By Eleanor Davis eleanor.davis@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

GOOD things come to those who wait, said the for­eign sec­re­tary, MP and the coun­try’s flood en­voy, Philip Ham­mond, after the gov­ern­ment pledged a fur­ther £60m to­wards the Lower Thames Flood Scheme on Tues­day.

Ahead of Chan­cel­lor George Os­borne’s Au­tumn State­ment, the Run­nymede and Wey­bridge MP said the com­mit­ment from cen­tral gov­ern­ment meant the scheme could now go ahead.

The £300m plan to in­stall a new flood chan­nel, make im­prove­ments to ex­ist­ing weirs and im­ple­ment prop­erty-level prod­ucts to re­duce the risk of flood­ing has been re­garded as un­re­al­is­tic by many res­i­dents due to a short­age of fund­ing.

Of the £300m needed, £165m had al­ready been pledged by gov­ern­ment and the £60m an­nounced on Tues­day means that 75% of the cur­rent es­ti­mated costs have been met, with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and other part­ners left to find the rest.

The new fund­ing, which will be avail­able from 2021, is be­ing re­garded as a ‘vic­tory’ for lo­cal Con­ser­va­tive MPs who have cam­paigned for it un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from res­i­dents hit by River Thames flood­ing in early 2014.

“It’s fan­tas­ti­cally good news, it means the scheme will now go ahead,” said Mr Ham­mond.

“It will be a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to the flood­ing prob­lem in the area, it will take eight to 10 years but at least peo­ple know that we are go­ing to have it built, they can make plans.

“I know that peo­ple suf­fered enor­mously ear­lier in the year and I hope, com­ing up to Christ­mas, this is the tonic that peo­ple need.”

Mr Ham­mond ex­plained that a cen­tral fund­ing for­mula sug­gested the to­tal grant com­ing from the Depart­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs was about £165m and after other part­ners have con­trib­uted there will be a gap of around £25m to be found by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“It’s al­ways a bat­tle to get money,” he said.

“To the many peo­ple in this con­stituency who have been writ­ing to me dur­ing the floods after the prime min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment and ask­ing what’s go­ing on, the an­swer is – to those who are pa­tient, good things come.”

In re­sponse to the an­nounce­ment, Sur­rey County Coun­cil cab­i­net mem­ber for flood­ing re­cov­ery, Cllr John Furey said: “Even though we are un­der pres­sure for school places and adult so­cial care fi­nan­cially, we will man­age to fund this work with part­ners.

“It’s great doable now.”

Spelthorne’s MP Kwasi Kwarteng said the fund­ing was a big step for­ward.

He added: “The River Thames Scheme will help to de­liver safety and se­cu­rity to lo­cal fam­i­lies and busi­nesses that need bet­ter

news,

it’s flood pro­tec­tion.”

Work on the scheme is due to start in 2019 and will pro­tect around 15,000 homes, although im­prove­ments to weirs may start in sum­mer 2016.

Run­nymede Bor­ough Coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Paul Tur­rell, said: “Ap­proaches are be­ing made to the var­i­ous lo­cal en­ter­prise part­ner­ships that cover the area of the scheme, with a view to their col­lec­tively con­tribut­ing half of the short­fall.”

Res­i­dents wel­comed news of the cash in­jec­tion, al­beit with some scep­ti­cism.

Dur­ing the floods, He­len Saxey-Santillo, 79, was stranded for a week at her home on the North­ern Bur­way near Chert­sey, where she has lived for 15 years. She failed to get a Sur­rey County Coun­cil sub­sidy for £260 to re­pair sewer dam­age as it was not cov­ered as ‘flood re­silience’ work un­der the au­thor­ity’s re­pair and re­new grant scheme.

She wel­comed news of the £60m in­vest­ment but said her ex­pe­ri­ence had made her pes­simistic.

She said: “Be­ing quite el­derly and hav­ing lived through a lot of gov­ern­ment prom­ises, as the Som­er­set farm­ers said, I will be­lieve it when I see it.”

Ian Swingle­hurst, of Wen­dover Road in Egham Hythe, said: “In the eight­ies it was the Tory gov­ern­ment that de­cided not to main­tain any of the river beds,” he said.

“The River Thames has lost 40% of its wa­ter con­veyancy ca­pa­bil­ity as a re­sult of the To­ries and now they claim it is a vic­tory to undo the dam­age.”

Mr Swingle­hurst also sug­gested that the re­spon­si­bil­ity should fall on all lo­cal au­thor­i­ties whose bor­oughs sit on the Thames or its trib­u­taries to fill the fund­ing gap.

The Chert­sey Sausage – an in­flat­able dam brought in to Bridge Road in Fe­bru­ary to pro­tect the town.

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