Ipswich flood disaster alert

A NIGHTMARE scenario of devastating flooding is in the pipeline for Ipswich's waterfront areas if action to build a £71million flood barrier is not taken now, a new report revealed today.

A NIGHTMARE scenario of devastating flooding is in the pipeline for Ipswich's waterfront areas if action to build a £71million flood barrier is not taken now, a new report revealed today.

The stark dossier predicts that rapidly rising sea levels will increase the flood risk at the Waterfront and Ipswich Village areas over coming years, leaving thousands of people in the area vulnerable to the danger of surge flooding.

In as few as eight years the lowest areas of the waterfront will be considered “unsafe” if decent defences are not in place, the document adds.

The alarming prediction coincides with Ipswich MP Chris Mole meeting with Environment Agency chiefs to promote the barrier scheme and try to secure funding.

Plans for a barrier, which would be built across the New Cut near Felaw Maltings, have been in the pipeline for a number of years and aim to protect the waterfront and Ipswich Village areas from tidal surges.

However, there is currently no funding in place for the vital work.

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A new report prepared for Ipswich Borough Council stressed the importance of going ahead with the project, claiming there could be tragic effects if nothing is done.

It states that by 2067, without defences, “tidal flooding could occur many times per year in parts of the waterfront and Ipswich Village areas.

“There would be foul sewage flooding, loss of electricity supplies and damage to vegetation and infrastructure.

“Salt floodwater could reach a depth of two to three metres, sufficient to cause deaths and injuries.”

The proposed barrier would protect 2,500 properties in the area as well as a further 3,000 that are yet to be built.

Ipswich has a long history of flooding, most seriously in 1939 and 1953.

The town was last month put on high alert when it was feared there could be huge damage from a tidal surge.

Ipswich is currently protected from flooding by a system of flood defences which are expected to reach the end of their life between 2012 and 2017.

Mr Mole said: “This [barrier] scheme is crucial for Ipswich and I am doing everything in my power to help secure the necessary funding by promoting this scheme.

“The storm in November and the floods of summer 2007 are a stark warning against complacency.

“Good flood defences can ensure that our town can continue securely as an increasingly vibrant economic centre.

“With the current defences coming to an end of their useful life, action is needed to protect Ipswich's homes and businesses.”

Richard Atkins, from Ipswich Borough Council, said an application for funding has been made to the Haven Gateway Partnership although it will be several months until it is known if this has been successful.

He said: “The idea of the Waterfront being at risk of flooding isn't something we could contemplate.

“I welcome anything Chris Mole is doing to help with this.”

Are you concerned by the risk of flooding? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The last time there was serious flooding of the River Orwell in the town centre was in 1939 - but that was caused by flood water flowing down the Gipping rather than a tidal surge.

During the 1953 floods, there were problems in the Stoke area - part of Ransomes and Rapier's factory was flooded - the barrier would prevent a repeat of this.

The scheme would include a gate which could be raised if very high water was anticipated, similar to a mini version of the Thames Barrier.

It would not be shut all the time as the New Cut has to remain open for shipping and the tidal section of the Orwell is vital for wildlife which feeds on invertebrates in the mud.

IPSWICH'S expanding waterfront has in recent years become a huge community with thousands of people living and working in the area.

Businesses line the quay side and work to complete new apartments, retail and cultural premises, continues apace.

Aidan Coughlan, owner of The Isaac Lord Quarter on the Waterfront, where work is soon to get under way on expanding the bar and creating a courtyard area.

He said: “A flood evacuation plan had to be part of our planning application for the work we are doing so we are well aware of the issues.

“Any property you buy along the Waterfront is a risk but that is the nature of buying on a waterfront.

“If there was a barrier there would obviously be far less risk so would certainly be in support of one.”

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