Delays in work to upgrade town’s flood defences after roosting bats discovered

PUBLISHED: 17:05 03 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:05 03 December 2018

The current trash screen is considered

The current trash screen is considered "operationally deficient".

Archant

Work to replace flood defences in Saffron Walden have been delayed by the Environment Agency (EA) until next year because of roosting bats.

Saffron Walden Town Council approved plans in July to replace a trash screen at the opening of a culvert which runs under the town.

The project is estimated to cost £2.1million and will be funded by a group of public bodies, including Anglian Water, in recognition of the risk of damage to property should the works not be carried out.

The current trash screen is considered “operationally deficient” and needs replacing to protect properties from flooding. The screen prevents large debris from blocking the culvert.

Councillor Paul Fairhurst said: “It is fairly common to experience delays in projects, large and small, on account of issues such as protected habitats or archaeological risk. I would tend to applaud such consideration for our wildlife and heritage and suspect that in this particular case, which is a long term project, the immediate risks of flooding are probably limited and have been accounted for by the EA.”

A spokesman for the EA said a recent survey had confirmed that bats are roosting there.

“This means we will be unable to start works within the culvert until at least March 2019 when they will become active again with warmer weather,” the spokesman said. “We are currently assessing whether there are aspects of the work that could be delivered sooner that will not disturb the roosting bats.

“We are also continuing to develop a business case for the project, however, in order to ensure good value for money for the taxpayer there are a number of outstanding issues to be resolved before we can move forward.

“We continue to work with Essex County Council, Essex Highways, Uttlesford District Council, Saffron Walden Town Council and Anglian Water to develop the best way forward to reduce flood risk to the community.”

As noted by the Reporter in May, the EA had made an initial costs estimate for the work of £2.7million, prompting concern from some members of the town council over affordability. Following the initial estimate, however, the agency says it has revised down the bill.

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