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New Orwell flood barrier moves for the first time as it is tested in position

PUBLISHED: 17:13 01 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:13 02 March 2018

The Ipswich flood barrier has moved for the first time. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

The Ipswich flood barrier has moved for the first time. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

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Officials from the Environment Agency chose one of the most inhospitable days of the year to test the new Ipswich Flood Barrier for the first time.

The Ipswich flood barrier has moved for the first time. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCYThe Ipswich flood barrier has moved for the first time. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

The new barrier, which should protect much of the Waterfront and the town centre from the threat of flooding from a tidal surge, was installed in its new position at the end of last year.

It was turned through a partial rotation to test some of the motors that will drive it when needed to protect the town from floods.

The barrier is the final major piece of the £70 million flood defence project for the town which has also seen river banks lifted beside the Orwell.

The move should help protect 1,600 homes and more than 400 businesses in the Waterfront area of the town centre – and will operate in a similar way to a mini Thames Barrier.

It is being installed inside a cofferdam installed at the end of the New Cut near the Wet Dock lock gates. Once it is fully operational the area it sits in will be flooded and the west bank of the New Cut will be extended to the side of the barrier.

Andrew Usborne, project manager, said: “This was an important step in what is a very complex phase of the project.

“The gate was successfully moved into the inspection position today and there will now come a period of dry and wet testing.

“Well done to the team on site who worked in challenging conditions and did an exceptional job.”

The flood protection scheme has been a project that has been worked on for several years – funding was confirmed by the former coalition government.

The importance of the work was shown in 2013 when there were serious fears about flooding in the area because of a surge tide down the North Sea.

The centrepiece of the project is the new 200-tonne tidal gate that arrived in Ipswich from the Netherlands in November. It is due to become fully operational towards the end of this year.

As well as offering protection from flooding, the barrier should also reduce insurance premiums for homes and businesses in the area, making them more attractive to purchasers.

It is aimed at offering protection for “one in 300-year events” – the kind of major catastrophe that is only expected once every three centuries.

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