Littlehampton’s Flood Defence completion celebrations cancelled owing to Flooding fears!

You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up.

The Environment Agency and Arun District Council have now officially cancelled their planned celebrations, which were due to take place to celebrate the completion of Littlehampton’s Flood Defence Scheme.

The reason?

Flood risk – as a result of the Environment Agency leaving a great big gap in Littlehampton’s new flood defences.

In correspondence seen by the Pier Road Diaries (received anonymously), Sir Phillip Dilley, Chairman of the Environment Agency and Councillor Andy Cooper Chairman of Arun District Council were due to preside at a completion ceremony in Arun District Council’s Civic Centre on Monday, 28th September 2015.

Invited guests were promised a presentation on Littlehampton’s Flood Defence scheme by James A Humphrys, Area Manager for Environment Agency, South Downs and Solent and his colleagues from the Environment Agency on the scheme followed by a buffet lunch ending off the day with a tour of Littlehampton’s Flood Defence scheme.

In what can only be described as an embarrassing cock-up  for both the Environment Agency and their partners at Arun District Council, both parties have now cancelled the celebratory event owing to fears that Littlehampton’s River Road may flood. And River Road is acutely at risk during the period the period 29th – 30th September 2015 when exceptionally high tides are predicted.

This would be the day after the big wigs and their invited guests had munched their way through a finger buffet provided at the expense of the tax payer while listening to self-congratulatory speeches on how marvelously they’ve all performed.

In his cancellation letter to his invited guests, James A Humphrys explains that the Environment Agency are predicting exceptionally high tides (as part of a 17 year cycle) during the period – 29th to 30th September. These high tides are caused by atmospheric low pressure and could, Mr Humphrey’s warns that owing to a gap in their flood defences, there may be localised flooding in River Road.

He offers reassurance in his letter advising that contingency plans are now in place, which may include the closing of part of Littlehampton’s River Road and the erection of temporary flood defences.

Regrettably, under such circumstances, Mr Humphrys advises that they’ve had no alternative but to cancel their celebrations.

So while the big-wigs lament the loss of another tax-payer funded free round of sarnies and vol-au-vonts, the bigger question remains is how has the Environment Agency spent £22.5m on building flood defences that now clearly are unfit-for-purpose?

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeAbove: The gap in the flood defences left during the building and completion of Littlehampton’s new Flood Defence Scheme. Hard to believe the Environment Agency could have left without addressing this gaping gap.

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeThe gap can be seen in the above picture nestled between two residential developments.

To the right of the gap you can see the original flood defences being rebuilt by the Environment Agency’s contractors. While the new buildings on the left have had their own flood defences built and strengthened by the property developer.

Littlehampton Flood DefencesAbove: Environment Agency contractors working on rebuilding the flood defences in this area, but specifically left a gap in the new flood defence wall.

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeHard to imagine how a decision was arrived by the Environment Agency to leave this exposed section unaddressed. It is this gap, which has led to their celebrations having to be cancelled.

Littlehampton Flood defencesA terrific new stretch of flood defence was completed by the Environment Agency to the right next to the gap.

The Environment Agency have previously been criticised for leaving this area so vulnerable and exposed. The Littlehampton Gazette covered local business owner and resident Mr Boyce’s concerns in a feature published on 23rd February 2015 entitled:  “Littlehampton Flood Defences has a gaping hole in it”.

Mr Humphrys concludes  his letter by saying it would be ‘inappropriate in a celebration event in Littlehampton in these circumstances.’ But he does say they’re proud of their achievements and they’re working towards a long term solution for River road.

Little comfort for Littlehampton’s River Road residents who now face potential road closures and are at risk of flooding, ironically as a result of lack of flood protection, despite the EA spending over £22.5m on building state-of-the-art flood defences.

In my view, it’s entirely unacceptable that given that the Environment Agency and their partners, Arun District Council have jointly spent in excess of £22.5m (original budget set at £14.5m) they have failed in their primary objective to prevent flooding in Littlehampton and we now must resort to relying on emergency temporary flood prevention measures (aka sand bags) and road closures. Were the Environment Agency and Arun District Council subject to the same intense scrutiny such as education and health establishments are, both organisations would be deemed unfit for purpose and placed in special measures.

I wonder when the Environment Agency and Arun District Council will get around to forewarning the residents and business owners of Littlehampton’s River Road and West Beach residents at Ropewalk?

The predicted exceptionally high tides, which are posing this flood risk are due to take place on 29th – 30th September 2015.


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