Temporary set back for Axminster’s vital flood relief scheme

Posted on: 26 October 2016

Plans for the Axminster Millbrook Flood Defence Scheme, announced earlier this month, have had to be put on temporary hold, says Devon County Council.

The delay relates to a significant increase in the updated cost of the scheme from the contractor, due primarily to the works’ complexity and proximity to the rail track, as well as the rigourous design and approval process that has been required.

It does however allow the Council’s design team to formalise the final sign off from Network Rail, which is in its closing stages, following an extended series of formal applications and checks that have been ongoing for the past 18 months.

The work, first envisaged to cost a little over £500,000, is now expected to cost more than £800,000.

It’s meant that the Council has had to go back to Environment Agency to ask for more money from the Flood Defence Grant in Aid.

Other funding for the scheme will come from Devon County Council and East Devon District Council.

The first elements of the scheme are however complete.

The water course downstream of the railway towards the River Axe has now been widened to maximise flow, and a ‘tree catcher’ debris barrier has been installed upstream of the culvert beneath Willhaye Lane.

A 100 metre length flood defence wall has also been built from Willhaye Lane upstream.

These finished stages of the scheme are critical, and their completion helps minimise the risk of flooding.

But phase two of the scheme, extending and increasing the size of the existing Willhaye Lane culvert to increase its capacity and allow greater flows to the River Axe, relies on linking up with Network Rail’s culverts, and is now subject to the current delays.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Councillor with responsibility for Highway Management and Flooding, said:

“After making such a good start with the preliminary work, I’m very disappointed to be having to put on the brakes.

“It would be foolish though to start work on this second phase with neither the full funding or full approvals in place.”

Even with the additional costs, the Council believes the work is still cost beneficial.

“It’ll be a few weeks before we hear about our application for additional funding, and hopefully we’ll soon be back on track,” says Cllr Hughes.

“We’re still aiming to have by far the bulk of the work completed by early Summer 2017.”

Councillor Andrew Moulding, Devon County Council’s Local Member for Axminster, also expressed disappointment at the set back.

“It’s a hurdle that we’ll overcome, and I don’t want to lose sight of the finished scheme. Phase one works have been completed and have provided increased protection, including the construction of a flood defence wall, installation of a new “tree catcher” and downstream widening improvements.

“The unfortunate delay will enable final issues with Network Rail to be resolved, and for the completion of works to the culvert in order to protect residents and homes many of which suffered from dreadful flood damage in 2012.”

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