Works to reduce flood risk in town centre are postponed due to funding problems

PUBLISHED: 08:42 01 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 01 February 2019

The current trash screen is considered

The current trash screen is considered "operationally deficient".

Archant

Work to stabilise the culvert which carries the River Slade under the centre of Saffron Walden has been called off due to a lack of funding.

Following an inspection of the culvert in 2016 by the Environment Agency, it was decided that work was needed in some sections to stabilise the walls of the culvert and that the trash screen – which prevents debris from blocking the culvert - needed replacing.

Over the last couple of years, the Environment Agency has been working with partners to find the money and put together a business case to carry out the repairs and replace the trash screen in order to reduce the flood risk to the community.

The scheme is designed to reduce flood risk to more than 120 homes, shops and businesses in the area.

The total cost of the project is currently expected to be £2.7million, but the Environment Agency says it would like to see the costs reduced.

While finalising the business case, the government agency said it became clear that the current funding package was not “sufficiently robust” to cover all potential risks that may occur.

A construction start date had been earmarked for this month, but the discovery of bats roosting in the culvert delayed the works until at least March when, it was hoped, the bats would become active again with warmer weather.

But the availability of government flood grant funding in the current financial year has now changed so even if works could be started this year, the government funding is now not available until at least 2021.

In a briefing note to Saffron Walden Town Council, the Environment Agency said: “This combination of factors unfortunately means the only option at this stage is to put the project on hold until a more robust funding package is achieved or an alternative method of project delivery is established.”

The Environment Agency said it would continue to work with partners such as Saffron Walden Town Council and Uttlesford District Council to determine an “appropriate way forward for the project” and develop an “emergency plan” that may now need to be in place.

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