‘No extra flood risk to Clyst’ says Environment Agency

PUBLISHED: 10:08 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 10:08 11 February 2013

Any moves to create new wildlife habitats in the lower River Clyst will not cause increased flooding of the road, according to the Environment Agency.

The comments come after a public consultation in Topsham last week, which saw residents turning up to find out more about the Environment Agency’s (EA) draft strategy for the Exe Estuary.

Tied up in this is a scheme to create new habitat in the lower Clyst by allowing the river to breach its banks – something landowners say would see a dramatic increase in flooding incidents like the one seen in November 2012, when the road between Topsham and Darts Farm was cut off by floodwater.

But the EA’s Martin Davies insists that if this scheme was to go ahead, the agency would have to prove that further road flooding would not be caused.

He said: “Before planning permission could be granted for that scheme we have to prove that [there is a plan] to build an embankment or raise the road to ensure there’s no extra flood risk.

“It can’t go ahead unless extra works are done to prove the road isn’t going to flood more often – that’s a guarantee.”

Such works would have to be done in partnership with other agencies, but Mr Davies said they could make the likelihood of the road flooding even lower than it is today.

Also, the scheme is not likely to go ahead for a few years, with the EA’s first priority a scheme further up the Clyst, which it says will cause no increased flood risk downstream.

The EA says that habitat creation is necessary because of its planned works elsewhere in the Exe estuary, to protect property in places such as Exmouth and Dawlish.

Because this would mean building flood defences that would restrict wildlife habitats, the EA is legally required to provide replacement habitats elsewhere.

The two lower Clyst sites, along with a site in the Kenn valley, are its first choices for this.

However, it has conceded that if landowners are not willing to go along with the plan, it may be forced to look elsewhere.

Mr Davies said: “The agency is not in a position to impose anything on anybody. If no landowners wanted to enter into an agreement [on habitat creation] we would hope to keep discussions continuing, and also may have to look outside of the estuary for other suitable sites.”

And agreement may not be easily forthcoming, with Nigel Cheffers-Heard, of the Bridge Inn, saying they are still unconvinced.

“The EA have their position and we have ours, and we’re still not convinced by the science behind their arguments.

“There are 8,000 cars a day using that road. Until such time as there are some plans and figures there … we’re not entirely convinced.”

Another meeting on flooding in Topsham is being held by the Topsham Society and Topsham Community Association, and will take place at Matthews Hall on February 14, at 7.30pm, when EA representatives will be in attendance.

The consultation on the EA’s plans runs until March 4, and can be viewed online at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal.

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