09:00AM, Friday 09 August 2019
Progress is being made on a ‘massive project’ to build a new flood channel alongside the River Thames.
‘The River Thames Scheme: reducing flood risk from Datchet to Teddington’ was discussed at a Flood Liaison Group meeting at Maidenhead Town Hall on Wednesday, July 31.
Built in three sections along the stretch, the aim of the scheme is to ‘reduce flood risk to people living and working near the Thames’ with ‘15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses better protected’.
Works would include the widening of the Desborough Cut, an artificial channel in the River Thames above Sunbury Lock near Walton on Thames.
The Environment Agency is managing the River Thames Scheme with a number of local authorities, including the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
David Bedlington, project director of the River Thames Scheme at the Environment Agency, was at the meeting and explained that before a planning application is submitted for the scheme in 2021 ‘there’s a whole series of steps to go through, not least public engagement and consultation’.
He said if everything went ‘really smoothly’ then construction would start in the summer of 2023 with a construction period of four-and-a-half years.
Mr Bedlington said: “Effectively, it classifies as a major project within the government portfolio of major projects. We will probably come under the scrutiny of Major Projects Authority in government.”
He said the ‘main uncertainty’ of the scheme is the funding.
Funding for the project has not yet been finalised so it is not known how much the council would have to contribute but on the government website it states that £354million, more than half of the funding required has been identified. This includes more than £290m of government investment and £60m from partners.
Cllr David Cannon (Con, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury) said: “For clarity, it’s not saying it’s definitely going ahead yet, it’s still in the approval stage and the funding hasn’t been finally sorted yet, but we’re heading towards the right direction.”
Mr Bedlington said the consultation and engagement will not just highlight the scheme itself but look at ‘what’s the method of construction, where are all the site depots are going to be, where are all the mooring movements are going to be, all that sort of stuff’.
“I think we’ve got to really engage on this,” he added.
Cllr Cannon said the scheme concerns ‘three channels, not just the one we’re very selfishly concerned about that sits within our borough’.
He said: “There’s two other channels, all will be done at the same time, further downstream, so it’s a massive project.”
An Environment Agency spokesman said work on the scheme will ‘create habitats for wildlife and recreation activities through 23 km of new pathways, and 106 hectares of public open space’.
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