Environment Agency offers householders new flood warning scheme, and farmers experiment with runoff prevention

Whilst the Environment Agency starts work on a number of flood alleviation schemes, the organisation is calling on householders and businesses in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to sign up for individual direct flood warnings.

The Agency’s new scheme is designed to ensure that householders and businesses badly affected by last winter’s flooding receive individual warnings of floods throughout the coming season to allow them sufficient time to prepare. The Agency has sent out letters to those in areas that are at risk from flooding throughout the region, and 149,000 people have already signed up for the scheme.

“If you, your neighbours, friends or relatives were affected by the floods last autumn then you will know the misery flooding causes and how difficult it can be to cope afterwards,” said Russel Turner, Regional Flood Warning Officer. “Receiving a flood warning direct to your home or business could give you the vital time you need to prepare. The extra time can allow you to put valuables and irreplaceable items in a place of safety.” He urged those who have received a letter and not yet applied for the scheme to phone the Environment Agency’s Floodline, on 0845 988 1188. “It could make all the difference,” he added.

Meanwhile, work has begun on a £5.5 million flood alleviation scheme for the city of Chichester in West Sussex, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The first phase of the programme involves the construction of tunnels deep beneath the old and new A27 roads. “Once completed the normal route of the Lavant [River] will still be through the city centre culverts as it is today,” said Sussex Environment Agency Area Manager, Peter Midgley. “As the flow in the Lavant rises towards the culvert capacity then some of the flow will gradually be diverted from the Lavant at Westhampnett down the new route. It is estimated that this is only likely to be necessary on average once every twelve years and full capacity is likely to be reached on average once in every 75 years.”

Work has also begun on clearing river channels to help reduce the risk of flooding in the Wiltshire village of Downton, where 40 properties were flooded last winter, and the main road in and out of the community was underwater for several weeks, causing severe disruption. This week, the people of Lewes – the worst hit town in the country during last winter’s flooding – will also get their say over possible flood defence options at a public meeting to be held in the town on 10 September.

Finally, farmers are also being invited to lend a hand with the flood prevention effort by exploring ways in which to tackle the problem of runoff from fields during heavy rainfall, which can wash mud onto roads and increase localised flooding. A meeting at a farm in South Wiltshire on 13 September will allow farmers to devise maize field treatments designed to minimise soil loss during the winter without cutting into profits. The farmers will then revisit the farm later on in the year to assess the benefits of their experiments.

“Run-off from compacted soil is a real pollution problem for our rivers, it also contributes to flooding and affects crop yields. It is clear that we must develop sustainable means that benefit both the farmer and the environment,” said Chris Westcott of the Environment Agency.

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