Gaping hole in town’s flood defences to be plugged at last

The gap in the defences, in River Road
The gap in the defences, in River Road

A gaping hole in Littlehampton’s flood defences is set to be plugged – more than two years after a £22million scheme was completed.

The defences on the east bank of the River Arun were largely renovated – but a gap was left outside Riverside Autos, in River Road.

The Environment Agency initially asked landowner Jane Wood to pay for the gap – but the organisation has now applied for planning permission to complete the work after admitting the landowner was unable to carry out the works.

Reacting to the news, Ms Wood said: “It is very good that they are doing it. They have done a brilliant job on the east bank. They are now going to complete the job which is fantastic.”

The agency’s project was completed in 2015 but a celebration event was cancelled amid warnings of the highest tides for 17 years and the possibility of flooding in River Road.

The Environment Agency received criticism for the gap, including from Osborne of Arun owner Robert Boyce. He said the project was ‘like a bath without a bath plug’.

River ward councillor Ian Buckland was also among the critics. Speaking on Monday, he said: “It is about time. It has gone on far too long.

“It should have been done in the first place and I think that the legal wrangling should have been sorted out afterwards. It has caused disruption for householders in River Road due to those people not having the flood insurance in place for their premises because it wasn’t completed.”

Documents submitted to Arun District Council said the Environment Agency had stepped in as the landowner was ‘no longer able to complete’ the works.

An agency spokesman told the Gazette in 2015 that the particular stretch of the defence was not included in the original east bank scheme as there were a number of development options for the site already on the cards, which included the reconstruction of the river wall.