Feniton flood alleviation scheme delayed
PUBLISHED: 08:58 18 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:55 18 April 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has scuppered plans to complete the next stage of a flood protection scheme for a community that gets ‘anxious every time it rains’.
The first two phases of the flood alleviation scheme for Feniton were completed back in 2016, but numerous delays have since beset the project.
Phase 3, which requires an undertrack crossing of the Exeter to Waterloo rail line, was due to take place in May during a planned 52 hour weekend track closure.
But East Devon District Council has taken the proactive step to postpone non-essential construction work to reduce health risks to workers, local healthcare staff, and local residents as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and as a result.
Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said: “I would stress that this is a temporary delay and that we are totally committed to completing the Feniton Flood scheme as well all the other flood and sea defence schemes that we have currently in hand.”
The decision will result in a delay for construction of phase 3 of the project, but a council spokesman said that they look forward to working with Network Rail to make sure everything is in place for the next possession window they can take to carry out the work.
They added: “Although clearly a delay for phase 3, the fourth and final phase was not due to begin until March 2021, so the overall delay to the scheme completion is minimal. The council’s project team will be working hard to ensure that both phase 3 and 4 can be delivered as soon as practically possible.”
Phase 4, the construction of the remaining culverted sections of the scheme, was set to follow in the summer of 2021, to enable sufficient time for further Government grants to be secured.
Cllr Susie Bond, who represents the Feniton ward, said that the news comes as no surprise, but is still sad and hard for residents to hear.
She added: “This is hugely disappointing, but not unexpected, news given the national emergency in which we find ourselves. We shall look forward to hearing more positive news once the crisis is over and we can work with Network Rail in finding a new possession window.”
Cllr Ben Ingham, the Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “It is a tremendous shame that we have to postpone this vital project for Feniton, especially in light of the hard work to get us this far. However, we cannot take high risks so there must be a delay. But we will be back.”
Cllr Peter Faithfull, Deputy Portfolio Holder for the Environment, added: “While it is extremely frustrating to have to make the decision to delay this work, the risk of flooding has to be placed second to the risk of COVID-19 for both the workers and the residents.”
When councillors in February backed the latest timetable for the works, Andrew Hancock, Service Lead for StreetScene, said: “This project will benefit more than 70 properties in Feniton as well as providing relief from the anxiety of the ever present flood risk.”
The original total project cost was £1.7m but as a result of the years of delays, the revised total project cost had risen to £3.7m.
Severe flooding hit Feniton back in 2008 left the village as “unpassable” and many residents were unable to leave their houses due to the river of floodwater running past their homes. There were also several landslides in the area.
The medieval St Andrew’s Church in Feniton Old Village was left under two feet of water, as were homes in the village centre.
Front gardens of houses were littered with flood-damaged white goods, furniture, books, a caravan and more.
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