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OTTERY: Flood scheme praised as town survives storms

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ottery St Mary’s flood defence scheme has been praised after the town survived the recent storms relatively unscathed.
Severe floods have had disastrous effects on the town in previous years, but while other parts of the South West were hit by the bad weather, Ottery Town Council has received very few reports of flood damage.
A town council spokesperson said the town has not experienced “anywhere near the normal level of flooding” over the last few weeks and the effects of the storms have been “minimal”.
Ottery St Mary has had a long history of flooding problems, with a major storm in 1997 devastating 57 properties in the town, and further flash flooding in 2005, 2008 and 2012.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said more than 2,000 homes had been successfully protected by flood defences.
The spokesperson said: “River levels were high this year but some of the works undertaken by the Environment Agency have helped to alleviate the flood risk.
“Teams were out in Ottery St Mary clearing trash screens and our flood defence scheme at Thorne Farm has successfully protected around 100 properties.”
The £120,000 Thorne Farm scheme includes a flood relief channel to divert flood flows away from the estate and into a watercourse located within the River Otter flood plain.
East Devon District Councillor and Ottery Town Councillor Roger Giles said the £4million flood defence scheme, first put in place in January 2005, has put the town in a much better position to cope with the threat.
He told Pulman’s View: “In the past, the problem has not been the amount of rainfall but the intensity of it, and coping with water coming very quickly off the hills around the town.
“But the Environment Agency has always recognised Ottery as a flood risk community and has kept an eye on things. Since the last time we were hit by floods, they have made modifications and improvements to the trash screens, and have helped to remove debris.
“You can never say anybody is completely safe. There will be more and more severe weather events and the situation is going to worsen.
“But Ottery is now pretty well protected – everything that can be done has been done and is being done. The flood defence schemes have worked and if we had not had them in place we would be in a terrible situation at the moment.”
In 2005, the Curious Otter Bookshop was hit twice within two weeks of opening and the floodwater damaged around 1,000 books.
The Curious Otter’s Adrian Lea said: “It was pretty serious back then – there were eight to 12 inches of water in the shop at times and it ruined the bottom shelves.
“There were teething problems with the flood defence scheme back then which could have actually made the situation worse in our case.
“But this year we have had no problems whatsoever. It would appear there is less of a flood risk now than in previous years and I suspect that the changes made by the Environment Agency have protected us to a certain degree.”
Other parts of the parish, including Tipton St John, are at greater risk and Ottery town councillor Martin Thurgood is currently preparing a report on emergency response and flood defence options for those areas.
There is further information about flooding on the council’s website and there is provision of sandbags should they be required.


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