CROSSENS pumping station is to receive £4.9m in government funding – protecting more than 3,000 homes from flooding for the next 50 years.
The funding boost comes 16 months after the Environment Agency (EA) first proposed scaling back pumping and increasing the use of natural flood plains in the Lower Alt with Crossens catchment.
The proposals, which would have been implemented by 2015 due to funding cuts from Defra, sparked widespread alarm and an initial 12-week consultation was extended and then put on hold.
A further 12-month period of engagement was then launched and is due to end this Summer.
Now, despite the secured investment in the Crossens pump – which protects homes in the Banks flood risk zone – the fight has moved to securing the future of the 11 satellite pumps and ensuring land drainage continues within the catchment.
The pumps cover areas including Rufford, Holmeswood and Kew.
A new consultation is likely to be launched in July, and options on the table range from reducing, to maintaining, or even improving the current system, as well as the agency’s original proposals to increase the use of natural flood plains. Proposals for a new internal drainage board or introducing a levy remain options for meeting the funding shortfall.
Cllr Paul Blane, who is on the advisory group working with the EA over the issues, said: “It is very reassuring that, having listened to our concerns, the EA has worked hard to ensure the Government learnt of the importance of the pumping station to our area.”
But while welcoming the protection for Banks village, Cllr Blane also vowed to continue the fight to “ensure that no pumping is reduced in any area of the catchment”.
Andy Brown, flood and coastal risk manager for the EA, said: “The Crossens pumping station refurbishment will be just one part of the overall strategy for the future of flood risk management and land drainage in the Alt Crossens.
“The Alt Crossens Advisory Group, which includes farmers, the NFU and councillors, has not yet agreed a date to start the next stage of consultation, although it is likely to begin around summertime.
“The Advisory Group will be considering all suggestions for future management of the catchment during the consultation. “Suggestions to date include setting up an internal drainage board and introducing a levy.
“As with all public bodies, the Environment Agency has less to spend, so we must focus our resources in areas where we can protect the maximum number of people and properties.
“By looking at ways of reducing the amount of money we spend on draining farmland, we can free up resources to spend on flood defences that protect larger numbers of homes and business properties.”