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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Holding back 'The Trespasser'
By Brady Haran
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Flooded Trent
The river's name comes from the Celtic word for trespasser because it floods so often
In the second part of our series "From the Source to the Sea", Brady Haran reports on flood defence along the River Trent.

It was a bad year on the Trent in 1947.

A combination of heavy rain and melting snow caused the worst flood in living memory.

The rising waters overwhelmed many East Midlands cities and towns, including Nottingham and Burton-upon-Trent.

It resulted in many changes along the river, including the construction of flood walls and Nottingham's sluice gates, at Colwick.

Paul Lockhart
In an ideal world we would like to protect everyone in our area
Paul Lockhart

But holding back nature is a job that never ends, as shown by floods along the Trent in 2000.

On Tuesday, the Environment Agency unveiled a new plan to deal with the problem.

The River Trent Fluvial Strategy deals with the non-tidal stretch of the Trent, between Stoke-on-Trent and Newark.

It outlines a 50 year plan to deal with flooding along the 200km stretch of the river.

Among the areas identified for immediate attention are:

  • Improving flood defence by spending 6.1m at West Bridgford, in Nottingham

  • Major works at Sawley (Derbyshire), Colwick (Nottingham) and Farndon (Nottingham).

  • Three projects in Staffordshire, at Rolleston and Rugeley, worth a combined 1.7m.

  • A 1.1m defence scheme at Brewer's Wharf, in Newark.

Paul Lockhart is the Agency's flood defence manager for the lower Trent.

He says the strategy was drafted to provide the best value for money.

As a result, some smaller villages along the river have not been shortlisted for extra protection.

Mr Lockhart says: "In an ideal world we would like to protect everyone in our area, but the reality of government funding is that we just can't do that.

The River Trent covers 274km and has 42 main tributaries

"We are targeting our funding to alleviate the stress and damage to the maximum number of people in our area.

"But that's not to say we aren't incredibly sympathetic to those poor people who are left without defences."

Those living in small villages will not be the only ones who are disappointed.

Environmentalists usually oppose building or increasing the height of flood walls, saying it is unnatural and converts the river into a giant canal.

Ruth Needham, from the river's OnTrent partnership, says: "It is disappointing to see that the majority of the proposals in the strategy are based on building new defences, which the EA themselves admit are unsustainable.

You still need to take action yourself to make sure you plan for a flood
Paul Lockhart

"The OnTrent partnership would have preferred to see more of the existing flood defences lowered to allow controlled flooding in appropriate areas of the wider natural floodplain."

While preparing the strategy and computer modelling possible flood events, the Environment Agency discovered an alarming fact.

There is already 75km of flood defence along the non-tidal section of the Trent, supposedly protecting 31,000 properties - however 15,000 are still at risk from a major flood.

Mr Lockhart says it is important that everyone on the floodplain is aware of the danger.

"The message I would really like the public to take away is that we are here to protect you.

Gainsborough's flood wall
Gainsborough's flood wall led to a development boom

"But you still need to take action yourself to make sure you plan for a flood."

The Environment Agency is yet to release its flood strategy for the Trent's tidal section, between Newark's Cromwell Lock and the Trent's mouth at the Humber Estuary.

However the agency takes pride in a recent project along this stretch.

The 16m flood protection wall at Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, has had a major impact on the town.

Not only does it protect the town from flooding, but it has given developers confidence to invest in buildings along the river.

Tim Hall, a flood defence engineer at the agency's Gainsborough office, says the 800m wall has been a blessing.

He says: "From the 1960s to the 1990s, the whole area along the waterfront was an area of dereliction."

"(The flood wall) has been a marvellous catalyst for the whole regeneration of Gainsborough town itself."

Also in our series from the Trent:

The BBC's Brady Haran
"However no amount of flood defence will protect us forever"

Paul Lockhart, Environment Agency
"We have 31,000 properties behind flood defences"

Bonus Material
View extra footage not used on TV or radio

A river on the mend
05 Apr 04  |  England
Better flood protection 'needed'
31 Mar 04  |  London


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