RIVERSIDE defences through the town centre are looking like the only option to protect Northwich from future floods.

More than 20 different methods have been investigated by the Environment Agency (EA) as it puts together its business case for the work.

And the EA only has until next spring to complete the business case, hold public consultations, win planning permission and start construction or it will lose the £4million Government funding for the project.

David Brown, from the Environment Agency, gave an update on the plans at a meeting organised by the Rotary Club of Northwich.

He said: “There’s always a catch and that was that we have to be on site constructing the scheme by spring 2015, so in 12 months’ time or less.

“We have Northwich Vision with Barons Quay, Hayhurst Quay, Memorial Court and the gyratory – it’s all happening in Northwich and we’re hoping to contribute to that by alleviating the flood risk.”

The EA and Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) were offered funding after Northwich was flooded twice within three months at the end of 2012.

Among the different options that have been investigated are upstream storage, raising defences in the town centre, diverting flood water into the Trent and Mersey Canal, operating sluice gates on River Weaver differently, dredging and improving the flood warning system.

David explained that many of these would not work or would be too expensive, including one of the most popular ideas for upstream storage.

This would mean making use of flood plains along the River Dane so that water would be held away from the town centre – at an estimated cost of £5.5million.

But it would only provide storage for 4.5 million of the 7 million cubic metres that would need to be contained in a flood and the time scale is too tight to negotiate the required land agreements.

David said: “Our preferred option is raised linear defences within the town centre because we would struggle to do it any different way.

“The constraints here are how the river and town connect.

“The planners at CWAC have been quite clear that we cannot have permanent raised walls that would cut off the rivers from the towns.

“But there are alternative ways to get round this.”

The EA is now investigating self-raising walls, which rise out of riverside chambers as the water levels increase, and walls made of strong glass panels, which maintain the view over the water.

Plans for a scheme are expected to be submitted in July after a round of public consultation.