CARLISLE is set to get one of the highest levels of flood protection in the country.

The first phase of a scheme to protect the city was approved yesterday and work to bring it to fruition is due to get underway this summer.

It comes more than three years after 2,000 homes were devastated by unprecedented flooding brought by Storm Desmond.

Stewart Mounsey, the Environment Agency’s flood risk manager, said after London, Carlisle’s scheme - and one for York - will provide the highest level of protection anywhere in the UK.

“I know that people have been concerned since Storm Desmond and every winter people are concerned in Carlisle what is going to happen.

“Hopefully this will be good news for the residents of Carlisle. We will start work this summer and will deliver a scheme for them next summer, in 2020. We want to deliver it as quickly as we can.”

The majority of the first phase will see existing defences in the area of Melbourne Park raised and extended. Work will also take place at the entrance to Tesco supermarket at its junction with Warwick Road.

The EA says the new and improved defences will protect 1,200 properties without increasing the risk of flooding elsewhere.

“These defences provide a level of protection to Storm Desmond - we have been aware that that is the level of protection that the people of Carlisle want,” Mr Mounsey continued.

“It is one of the highest levels of protection in the country. Above that, we can’t protect for every single flood.

“Desmond was exceptional. What the scheme does mean is potentially we can look at property level resilience and put in place individual house protection.

“Over time that want to look at catchment solutions as well - planting trees and better land management up stream.

“What we can’t do is just put this scheme in and stop work there. We want to continue with those catchment actions so that over time we can adjust to climate change.”

Mr Mounsey explained that all options have been worked on with partners, including Carlisle Flood Action Group (CFLAG) and he stressed that the level of concern about Botcherby Bridge is reflected in the level of work that has gone in to that part of the scheme.

“We have got to be certain that it is the right solution. This is one of four phases but it makes the biggest difference in terms of the number of properties protected, particularly around Warwick Road,” he said,

“We have worked very closely with Carlisle Flood Action Group around Botcherby Bridge and the concerns they’ve got there.

“We have had them in a lot of our meetings where we’ve discussed a solution for Botcherby Bridge. That’s brought in that community voice and we have absolutely listened to it.

“We have used the best engineers we can, we had people look and do reassurance work. It matches the level of concern.

“We want to make sure that it’s right and that we’ve got a robust and strong solution for Carlisle that enables us to give people the reassurance they are looking for.”

Planning permission for phase 2 in the area of The Sands Centre will be submitted later this year and, granted permission, would get underway next year, with phases three and four following on from that.

Mr Mounsey said they want all the phases to be completed as soon as possible but the scheme needed to be done sequentially in order to prevent increasing flood risk elsewhere.