NORTHWICH will be better protected from floods thanks a £4.6 million boost for defences in the town centre.
The town has been given £2.2 million from the Environment Agency, £500,000 from Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) and £2.7 milllion in partner contributions to help save more than 700 homes and businesses from the devastating damage of floodwater.
The news comes soon after businesses in Dane Street and the Bull Ring were striken by rising river levels twice within three months at the end of 2012.
Details of the defence scheme are yet to be confirmed but it is likely to involve raising the existing defence walls through the town centre as well as sections of raised embankments and flood gates.
Construction is programmed to start in December 2014.
Clr Lynn Riley, CWAC’s executive member for community and environment, said: “The long-standing need to improve the town’s defences was thrown into sharp focus only last year when residents and business owners faced the misery of flooding not just once, but twice.
“We have been working closely with the Environment Agency and have brought local partners Northwich Town Council to press the case for a share of this one-off funding.
“We are delighted that this partnership working has proved successful in making this much-needed scheme a reality.”
The £2.2 million from the Environment Agency comes from a £32 million funding pot for north west flood defences, a quarter of the £120 million investment announced by the Treasury in last autumn’s statement.
Sally Sudworth, the Environment Agency’s flood executive for the north west, said: “The weather we have experienced this summer highlights the growing importance of flood risk management both to local communities and the local economy.
“Only by working closely with local authorities and partners can we secure the funding we need tio make a real difference.”
Clr Mike Jones, leader of CWAC, said: “Improving the town’s protection against flooding will support both current and future regeneration initiatives and the estimated 1,500 jobs set to be created over the next few years.
“The news is yet another powerful vote of confidence in the town and will help to build on its growing reputation as a great place to invest.
“The future of Northwich has never looked brighter.”
A cautious welcome has been given to flood defence plans by businesses and groups in Northwich town centre.
Clive Steggel, from CRS Consultants, owns much of the riverbank to the side and back of his property.
“I would like to know what they’re going to do,” he said.
“If they build up the bank it could create problems here.”
Clive, who had his building lifted by 4ft in 1984, suggested that the cheapest scheme could well be to raise other affected properties.
Paul Harris, from Northwich Fireplace Centre, was pleased to hear some good news.
“It’s a positive and lately it’s been alll doom and gloom,” he said “Though the way people reacted to the floods we’ve had and the help we got has all been good.”
John Tackley, chairman of the River Weaver Navigation Society, said: “The allocation of £4.6 milllion to construct and maintain flood defences is fantastic news for the River Weaver and those that live in Northwich.
“While we are disappointed that construction will not begin until December 2014, this will give time for the authorities to consider best use of these public funds.”
The society suggests that an out of town lake to take excess water from the River Dane and more regular dredging of the Weaver could be a solution.
John added: “The Environment Agency and other partners need to look at all options and take the right long term decision for Northwich.”