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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Cumbrian towns chosen to pioneer 'next-gen' flood defences

Two Cumbrian towns have been chosen to pioneer a new generation of flood defences, say environment chiefs.

Keswick flood defences photo
The River Greta behind Keswick's new defences

Officials at the Environment Agency accept that floods are the number one natural hazard facing the UK, with climate changes and extreme weather putting more properties as risk.

So far this year, parts of west Cumbria have endured six major floods events.

In the most recent, high tides and exceptionally heavy rain left several areas of Whitehaven – including Market Place – and other communities in the area badly hit by severe flash floods.

But Environment Agency bosses said today that simply building bigger walls is not the answer.

The organisations is rolling out a new breed of futuristic flood defences across England as experts battle to protect communities from the increasing flood threat.

Examples of the clever engineering and technology that is being used include:

  • Cockermouth, which was flooded in 2009, is to benefit from self raising flood gates – a first for the UK. The power of the flood water will lift the barriers and hold them in place. As the water recedes, the barriers slowly go down.
  • Keswick, also flooded in 2009, has a newly built glass flood defence. It was built to protect the town from flooding while maintaining its spectacular views of the river Greta and the Lake District hills. Experts say a traditional reinforced concrete defence would have completely obscured the views in the town.

Pete Fox, head of strategy and investment at the Environment Agency, said: “We are increasingly looking at more innovative ways of dealing with flooding, such as glass walls and self raising barriers, as well as softer defences such as using purpose-built ponds to store flood water.

“But we cannot prevent flooding entirely and so it is vitally important that people help protect themselves from flooding by finding out if they are at risk, and signing up for free flood warnings.”

Mr Fox added: “Being prepared is the most important thing that you can do to minimise the damage to your home and belongings.”

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