Saturday, January 12, 2013
The Environment Agency is facing renewed criticism over the River Clyst, amid fears repeated flooding could see Topsham being cut off from the east several times a year.
In late November last year, flooding of the Clyst rendered the road between Darts Farm and Topsham impassable for several days, causing chaos for motorists and a drop in trade for businesses.
Local landowners say this situation will become more and more common, due to a policy brought forward by the Environment Agency (EA) to create a wetland for birds by allowing the Clyst to breach its banks, which they believe would be disastrous for the town.
However, the EA says that its policies were not to blame, and that the flooding was merely caused by the severe rainfall experienced in November.
Nigel Cheffers-Heard, of the Bridge Inn, who runs the Save the Clyst Facebook page, said: “The road across Topsham Flats is one of only two routes into Exeter from East Devon. If this scheme was to go ahead, the road would be likely to flood up to 10 times per year. This would result in traffic chaos on the other road into Exeter, and effectively leave Topsham and Darts Farm in a cul-de-sac.
“In the recent flooding, many businesses in Topsham had almost no customers for several days. Threatening this through route would have major economic implications.”
“[Other] flaws in the scheme [are] the blind assumption that birds are more important than people, and the constant use of the term ‘habitat creation’, when, in fact, it’s habitat destruction.”
In response, a spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The flooding in the Clyst Valley and across the region in recent months was due to high river flows following exceptionally heavy rainfall.
“It followed one of the wettest summers on record. It was these high river flows that caused the road to flood as opposed to a deliberate land management/habitat creation policy on the part of the agency.
“It is likely the road could flood again if we experience similar rainfall patterns and river flows in the future.
“The existing defences have not been modified and I can confirm the agency will continue to protect people and their houses from flooding.”
“Journal readers might like to know that the draft Exe Estuary Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy, which identifies future projects that support the policy of habitat creation in the Lower Clyst valley, will be available for public consultation between January 21 and March 4.”
As part of the agency’s consultation, there will be a drop-in session at Matthews Hall on January 28, between 1pm and 6pm, where members of the public can view the strategy recommendations and question staff.