Pledge over Ottery’s flood defences

Damaged flood wall in Ottery

Damaged flood wall in Ottery - Credit: Archant

‘Ottery’s flood barriers will work as designed’, the Environment Agency assured residents, after it was revealed some of the defences failed recent inspections.

The agency confirmed last week that three flood barriers on the River Otter were found to be in ‘poor condition’ - and revealed it could be up to six years before repairs are carried out.

Frost has taken its toll on walls on both sides of the river, just upstream of St Saviours Bridge, where brickwork is damaged and crumbling.

One flood prevention asset listed as a ‘substantial defence’ was recorded as being below the required standard because part of the brickwork on the riverside is damaged.

Operations manager Steve Douglas said: “The agency has trained asset inspectors checking 6,000 flood defences across Devon and Cornwall.

“The walls [in Ottery] will still stand up, but in due course they will need more repairs. The next step is to do a more detailed inspection to see what will need to be done.”

The government body has bid for funding to bring the defences up to the required condition and Mr Douglas said further investigations will be carried out over the next fortnight, and a full risk assessment completed.

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He said: “It is difficult to forecast when work will be carried out it depends on risk.

“It could go in towards the end of the six-year plan, but if engineers say the risk is greater, then we will put it in sooner.

“It is not a simple process because of the complex nature of flood defences.”

The Environment Agency’s six-year plan covers flood defences across the whole of England and constant assessment is carried out by trained inspectors, so that work can be carried out on a cost, risk analysis basis.

Ottery has been affected by flooding a number of times in previous years, with the most recent deluge in 2012.

With extensive development planned for the town, residents and councillors have expressed fears that there will be an increased flood risk, with more surface water run-off.

In response to concerns that Ottery was currently left unprotected, Mr Douglas told the Herald he was confident the riverside wall was not going to collapse and flood defences would operate as designed.

He said: “Even though an asset is below required condition, in many cases it would still continue to operate to reduce flood risk at that location and the asset just requires repair to bring it up to the required standard. These works are prioritised based on risk.

“Some of the assets we inspect are not owned by the Environment Agency, but we encourage the owners to ensure that they meet the required standard.”

Almost 100 flood defences across Devon and Cornwall are categorised as failing; this is just two per cent overall.

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