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Old Ipswich flood protection removed as tidal barrier nears completion

PUBLISHED: 19:00 15 October 2018

The old barrier, or Velocity Control Structure, is being removed from the New Cut on the River Orwell in Ipswich. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

The old barrier, or Velocity Control Structure, is being removed from the New Cut on the River Orwell in Ipswich. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

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With Ipswich’s new flood defence barrier now almost ready to protect the town, an earlier attempt to reduce the risk of flooding is now being removed from the New Cut.

The Velocity Control Structure was installed in the mid-1970s. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCYThe Velocity Control Structure was installed in the mid-1970s. Picture: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

The Velocity Control Structure (VCS) was installed in the River Orwell in the 1970s. Unlike the new barrier, it was not designed to protect the town from very high tides or flooding after heavy rain.

As its name suggests, it was designed to slow down the flow of the water and introduced a temporary weir in a bid to prevent the fast-flowing river sweeping away riverbanks and undermining bridges.

However it has now reached the end of its design life and the new tidal barrier has been designed to fulfil that requirement as well so the old structure is to be cut up and removed.

Chris Finbow from the Environment Agency said: “The VCS has worked well over the decades, but it is nearing the end of its design life and has become quite a challenge to keep it in operation.

The new tidal barrier could be commissioned by Christmas 2018. Picture: RACHEL EDGEThe new tidal barrier could be commissioned by Christmas 2018. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

“With the new barrier about to come into operation we are removing and cutting up the old VCS.” It is expected to take two to three weeks to remove the old structure,

Meanwhile the new barrier is nearing completion. The last sections are due to be put in place and the whole project could be commissioned by Christmas.

Mr Finbow said the tidal barrier was in place and it is working. If there was a tidal surge forecast now the Agency would be able to use it to protect the town – but there are still a few final elements that need to be finished before it is fully commissioned.

He added: “When it is fully operational it will act as both a Tidal Barrier and a VCS so we are effectively getting two forms of protection in one.”

The VCS was originally settled in position using huge cranes. The Agency had considered using cranes again to remove it – but they would have had to be so large there was a danger they could damage the quayside so it was decided it would be better to cut it up on site.

The 200-tonne Tidal Barrier is the final phase of a £70m flood protection scheme aimed at protecting 1,600 homes and 400 businesses near the town centre from the risk of being hit by a tidal surge similar to that in 1953 which claimed hundreds of lives on both sides of the North Sea.

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