Flood defence gap dispute reignited by high tide

SUS-150213-154955001
SUS-150213-154955001

An ongoing dispute over a gap in Littlehampton’s flood defences was reignited recently when temporary barriers were erected by the river recently.

Residents spotted the Environment Agency installing the temporary defences outside Riverside Autos in River Road on January 13 in response to abnormally high tides.

The temporary flood defences deployed in River Road. Picture: Terry Ellis

The temporary flood defences deployed in River Road. Picture: Terry Ellis

But it lead to questions about when the gap would be plugged permanently – and why it was not completed at the time.

The £22million flood wall project ended in 2015. The wall runs in an almost continuous line along the River Arun from its mouth to north of the A259 road bridge.

The owner of the site with the gap in the defences is Jane Wood, of Littlehampton’s East Beach Café, who was told by the Environment Agency that she would be the only person to have to pay for their section of it.

After the successful construction of five riverside homes on the site next door, the landowner was denied planning permission to build on the Riverside Autos site by Arun District Council – meaning she could not afford to pay.

I’m as distressed as everyone else that I look like the person who is holding up the flood defences in Littlehampton

Jane Wood

She said: “I’m as distressed as everyone else that I look like the person who is holding up the flood defences in Littlehampton.”

She added it was ‘a shame’ that the ‘expensive’ temporary barriers could not have been avoided.

Councillor Ian Buckland added his voice to concerns, asking when the project would be completed and why it was not finished when the labour and materials were on site.

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said Littlehampton ‘is better protected from flooding today than ever’, and defended the use of temporary barriers.

The temporary flood defences deployed in River Road. Picture: Terry Ellis

The temporary flood defences deployed in River Road. Picture: Terry Ellis

They said they considered finishing the job at the time, but because of a lack of necessary information about the Riverside Autos site it would have delayed the rest of the project and led to further costs.

Negotiations with Jane Wood are ongoing to develop a ‘cost-effective solution’ to the gap, they added. While these continue the temporary barriers will be brought from a Chichester depot when floods threaten River Road.

They have not been permanently installed so current occupiers can continue to operate their business, the spokesperson explained.

The permanent defences are planned to be in place by winter 2017 or early 2018.

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