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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Official opening for Cockermouth flood defences

Cockermouth's new £4.4 million flood defences have been officially opened – with a poem from a nine-year-old girl.

Cockermouth flood barrier photo
Molly Palmer with MP Richard Benyon at the opening

The scheme was opened by Richard Benyon MP, minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, and Bridekirk Dovenby school pupil Molly Palmer, nine, who wrote a poem to commemorate the floods in 2009.

The poem is engraved on a plaque that was unveiled at the South Street footbridge.

Mr Benyon praised the community of Cockermouth for getting the town protected in such a short time.

He said: “I am immensely proud of what has been achieved since the floods.

“It has been down to the determination of the local community working with the different agencies and they have done a superb job.

“The work done is really impressive and will have massively reduced the flood risk in the town.”

Molly’s parents, Joanne and John Palmer, of Tallentire, said their daughter had been incredibly excited to be able to open the flood defences.

Joanne, 40, said: “She worked so hard on the poem. I remember on the day of the floods we collected her early from school but when we got back the village had flooded.

“We had to carry her through deep water and she couldn’t go to any of her clubs in the town after the floods.

“We are immensely proud of what she has written and she has been very excited by the whole thing. She said she wants to be poet laureate in the future and this is a step in the right direction.”

Chairman of the flood action group Sue Cashmore said that the day was a time for reflection and celebration.

She had been flooded out of her home three times since 2005 and was one of the main driving forces in getting the defences.

She said: “We were told in December 2009 that it would be 10 to 15 years before we would get these defences so it is a celebration to get them as quickly as we did.

“We worked in partnership as a community and had a very professional relationship with the Environment Agency, explaining to them what needed to be done.

“They trusted us and we trusted them and we had a fantastic working relationship but we could not have done this without the support of the community.”

Miss Cashmore added that the time had come to draw a line under the floods and look towards the future and Cockermouth as the market town that it is.

Around 40 people attended the opening ceremony, with many shown around the flood defences by Environment Agency representatives.

The defences include raised walls and a self raising flood barrier on Rubbybanks Road by the River Cocker, glass panels and flood protection windows at Hatters Croft, raised and strengthened walls round Croft Bowling Club, raised walls and glass panels outside houses on Waterloo Street, a new flood wall built round Jennings Brewery and an embankment and wall in the Memorial Gardens.

Nine flood gates were built around the town which can be closed to direct flood water away from properties if such an event happened again.

The defences will protect 361 homes and 55 businesses from flood risk and have between a one in 75 and one in 200 annual risk of flooding.

The defences were funded by £3.35m from the Environment Agency and £1.1m of contributions from Cumbria County Council, Allerdale council, the flood action group, Cumbria Community Foundation and Cockermouth residents and businesses.

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