THE clock is ticking for Northwich to secure £2million for vital town centre flood defences.

Construction on the scheme has to start before autumn 2014 to guarantee the cash so the Environment Agency and Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) are working flat out to finalise the design.

A flood risk management scheme for Northwich is estimated to cost a total of £4.5million – £2million of this will come from a Treasury growth fund set aside following extensive flooding in 2012.

A further £500,000 will come from CWAC with the remainder from Flood Defence Grant in Aid, an annual budget from the Government to reduce flooding in the UK.

A number of design options are being looked at for the Northwich scheme, which is likely to include flood walls along the banks of the River Dane and River Weaver with the potential for flood water storage upstream.

The community will be consulted on proposals before a planning application is submitted.

Mark Garratt, flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said: “Northwich is at risk of flooding from the Rivers Dane and Weaver and the construction of flood defences in the town will reduce the risk to around 700 local homes and businesses.”

He added: “The fund is time limited and represents a one-off opportunity to secute flood defences for the town, so it is important that we move quickly to get input from the local community before we finalise the designs and submit them for planning approval.

“The money is only payable if we begin construction before autumn 2014, which may sound a long way off, but in construction terms is a tight deadline.”

A series of drop in sessions and surgeries will be arranged in the coming months to gather feedback on the plans.

Clr Mike Jones, leader of CWAC, said: “Improving the town’s protection against flooding will support both current and future regeneraion initiatives and the estimated 1,500 jobs set to be created over the next few years.

“This 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.”