ARUNDEL residents are being urged to save for a rainy day, to help keep floods away from the town in the future.
Millions of pounds need to be spent over the next half-century to improve the banks and walls lining the River Arun and defending Arundel from flooding caused either by tidal surges or heavy rainfall, as the effects of climate change have an increasing impact.
But with cuts in funding to the Environment Agency (EA), communities will increasingly be expected to make substantial contributions of their own to protect their homes and businesses.
Littlehampton was fortunate in being one of the last places where the EA funded virtually the entire cost of the £12m scheme now underway along the east bank of the River Arun, designed to protect hundreds of businesses and homes at risk of flooding, for decades to come.
Paul Dendle, Arun district councillor for Arundel, is calling on Arundel Town Council to consider raising the council tax by 25 per cent over the ten years from 2015, bringing in about £480,000, as the town’s own contribution to its flood defences. Further sums would be sought from West Sussex County Council, Arun District Council and Arundel businesses, but the EA’s share is unlikely to be more than 30 per cent of the total, added Mr Dendle.
The suggestion, backed by the Arundel Flood Risk Community Group, which Mr Dendle helped to set up, would cost people living in a typical band D council tax property 50p a week, or £26 a year, on top of the existing £94.86 a year currently paid for the town council’s share of council tax bills.
A long-term strategy drawn up by the EA to manage flood risk in the lower, tidal section of the River Arun, including Arundel, proposes spending £23m on flood defences, with the first phase over the next 20 years at a cost of £10m.
Cllr Dendle said the town council could obtain further funds from the Public Works Loans Board, and by sending out the message to the EA now that Arundel was supporting the work, the town would be well-placed for future investment.
“It would put the town council in a position of strength,” said Cllr Dendle. “With the money going into a flood fund, the town council would be able to dictate the agenda with regard to flood defences. It’s also possible that the town council’s commitment could persuade the EA to bring forward the more urgent work needed.”
Asked what he would say to an Arundel resident who felt the Government should pay for the flood defences for the town, Cllr Dendle replied: “Austerity brings in a new reality. I take a fairly pragmatic approach. It’s in the power of Arundel Town Council to do this, it is common sense. It is putting money aside for a rainy day, if you’ll excuse the pun.”
He also felt that, as Arundel was a community-spirited place, those living where flood protection was not needed, at the top of hills, would be willing to contribute to improvements benefiting the town as a whole.
Cllr Dendle said he had been lobbying the town council for about a year over the issue and, although it was too late for anything to be included in the budget for the new council year from April 1, he hoped the money could be raised from 2015 onwards.