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Major review of winter floods to be carried out

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 22, 2013

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A major review is under way into the devastating winter floods which damaged hundreds of homes and businesses, and caused widespread travel disruption.

The Environment Agency is conducting a detailed, technical investigation into how flood defence schemes performed while also seeking the views of flood victims and the wider public.

An agency spokesman explained: "Part of what we are doing in the current recovery period is going back to those places which were flooded to see if there are improvements that can be made to existing schemes or tweaks that can be done to make them more effective."

An interim report has revealed new details about the extent of the floods which resulted in 1,000 properties being hit by flooding.

"The effects of the long duration winter event of November 19-25 saw river levels exceed those previously recorded," Gordon Trapmore, Devon and Cornwall area flood risk manager, said.

"In St Erth, the River Hayle reached its greatest depth since 1968 and on the River Culm, at Woodmill, the highest level since 1962.

"Of 72 gauges within the areas affected 52 recorded levels within the top five. The effect of these levels was overtopping of defences causing more than 509 residential and commercial properties to flood."

It said some areas of the region had suffered more than 90mm (3.5 inches) of rain in those six days. Mr Trapmore added: "A similar long duration winter event from December 19-31 saw river levels reach high levels, particularly at Lostwithiel, Stoke Canon and Braunton, resulting in over 400 residential and commercial properties being flooded."

In Braunton, the volume of water overwhelmed the £1.5m flood defences which were only completed earlier in the year. Some 50 properties, including business, were flooded on December 22.

Another of the hardest hit areas was Helston where a severe flood warning was issued during the early hours of December 22 after rapidly rising river levels on the River Cober. The agency said 116 properties had been issued with the highest possible warning but received reports of only five properties being flooded.

The problem was caused by the volume of water in Loe Pool, into which the Rover Cober runs, where pumps had to be installed to reduced water levels.

Landslips could also get worse.

Mr Trapmore said: "Since the storms at the end of 2012 and the extreme rainfall that took place in the last quarter, there has been a fivefold increase in the rate of coastal landslides and erosion noted when compared to previous years.

"These slips have impacted coast roads, footpaths and damaged properties and with an anticipated freeze of the groundwater in the colder months to follow these occurrences are likely to further increase in frequency."

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