WORKS are underway from the Environment Agency to protect Carlisle from future flooding but a flood action group believes resources are not being focussed on the right developments.

Phase two of Carlisle’s flood defences project is underway in the city this week with 1,000 metres of new flood walls set to be built. John Kelsall, chairman of Carlisle Flood Action Group said: “We think that they’re approach is too limited to a single type of solution. It’s financially driven.”

Mr Kelsall believes that the Environment Agency is “taking the cheap option” by focusing efforts on expansion of the defence wall rather than managing the River Eden.

CFLAG is concerned that conveyance of the river will continue if Eden bridge’s arches are compromised by gravel and sand being transported downstream, this would make potential flood peak levels higher.

“The Environment Agency say the gravel that’s there, ‘if we cleared it out, the river would just fill the spaces back up’ and we would say ‘but you used to pull it out every year.’ It’s maintenance not project work.”

Mr Kelsall said: “The rivers must be carefully managed but the Environment Agency aren’t concentrating on that, they’re just putting walls up. Better walls do increase protection but they do not greatly reduce risk as they can fail as we have seen in the past, it is a solution of last resort. River bank ‘smoothing’ to aid conveyance flow rates could play a much larger part than in the proposals.”

He added that recent Salford University research into the River Caldew found that major rivers hold deposits which build up throughout the year from erosion into the water.

He added that the debris used to be extracted by the National Rivers Authority using accessible catchpits near bridges and river bends.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “We believe that the benefits of raising the flood defences in Phase two will deliver the greatest benefit to Carlisle than the other options we reviewed.

“The Environment Agency has been in discussions with CFLAG throughout the development of the Carlisle Flood Scheme. As the improved levels of protection are delivered in the area, we want to work with the flood action group on broader flood and climate resilience measures for the future.

In response to the claim that plans have been scaled back, they said: “There are often many ways of reducing flood risk to a town or city and the main purpose of our appraisal work is to identify which of these ways can provide the greatest reduction in risk against the technical, social, environment and cost considerations. The appraisal process has seen the Environment Agency develop current plans from 60 different options, including from ideas generated during three public consultations.”