The go ahead for a major flood protection project in the heart of Marlborough was given the green light by the town council last night (Wednesday).
At an extraordinary meeting in the summer recess, the council agreed to cover quarter of the cost of the scheme for grade II listed Kennet Place, proposed by the Environment Agency following extensive research.
The decision is conditional on Wiltshire Council also paying a quarter in a partnership project with the Environment Agency who will be paying half the eventual total cost in a three-way split.
It had been hoped that Wiltshire Fire and Rescue would also join the partnership but they pulled out after being hit by government financial cut-backs.
Marlborough town council will probably recover its share of the scheme by raising its council rate precept, but with the project unlikely to go ahead until next year – or even later – no decision has yet been made.
The Environment Agency brought forward its plan to build a half-metre high wall — from the Town Mill bridge to the Old Ropeworks — following flooding in January, 2003, and although the details have yet to be agreed, the final scheme is expected to include an enhancement to the bank of the River Kennet as well.
All 10 councillors present agreed it was a vital “win – win” scheme that had to be carried out even though the chances of flooding in the near future might be remote. However, it was accepted that a sudden “snow melt” could trigger flooding. A dramatic rain deluge too was another possible danger at any time.
Residents of Kennet Place were present in the council chamber to hear the debate and were also given the opportunity to speak.
One of them – Val Compton – who provided the Environment Agency with a photographic record of the 2003 flooding, called on the councillors to “show commitment” and thus encourage Wiltshire Council to join the partnership.
“Without a partnership being formed it is possible that any flood defence scheme could be scuppered before it begins,” she warned. “The risk to Kennet Place has not changed since 2003.”
“Whatever the design, the implications and technicalities of this scheme, all of which are under discussion, the project will be in jeopardy without a partnership being formed.”
And the council agreed after going into private session to agree the financial arrangements.