Flood wall costs just don’t add up

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I write in response to your two linked articles about flood defences in Littlehampton Gazette (January 22), which posed questions which need straight answers.

I start with your front page lead, ‘Agency agrees payouts as costs spiral’. Is there a business in Littlehampton or the rest of the country, for that matter, that could ‘overspend’ by over 50 per cent on a contract and survive?

Never mind the rain last winter, it does rain in the winter! Initial surveys resulting in unachievable design and poor contractor equipment reliability are among the real reasons!

Never mind an additional £8m has been secured! From where? You, me and every taxpayer in the country!

But let’s look at the bigger picture. When the east bank tidal defences project was first proposed, it was stated that it would cost £14.3 million and protect over 2,000 homes and businesses. Last week’s article quotes the increased cost of £22.1 million will protect 748 homes and 340 businesses, a total of 1,088 units.

The Environment Agency nails its flag of CBR (cost benefit ratio) to every decision it makes, so let’s look at the maths now! Original cost £14.3 million against 2,000 units protected! New cost £20.1 million against 1,088 units protected! This is, once again, an increase of over 50 per cent in the CBR!

Now let’s look at your article on the west bank. For the first time, the Environment Agency has admitted, both in response to your article and in its response to comments on the Climping sea defences/Arun west bank section of the Arun/Pagham consultation document that the west bank defences have always been lower than the east bank and therefore were always more at risk of flooding! So why were they not addressed first?

Coming to the projected cost of protecting the west bank, the Environment Agency’s flood and coastal risk manager Andrew Gilham states that the west bank defences would cost £9 million, of which the agency could fund only £1.3 million. The agency’s response in the Arun-Pagham consultation quotes the west bank defences at £8 million, with a £2 million contribution from central government.

Are these, like the east bank’s, just numbers plucked out of the air? Let’s have some straight answers!

Finally, if Mr Gilham would like to meet me and walk the west bank and witness the erosion over the last 12 months, he might change his ‘that’s categorically untrue’ stance.

Simon Gibson

Rope Walk

Littlehampton

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