Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Two towns get 3m flood defences

Bell Lane, Uckfield in 2000
A lifeboat was used to rescue people in Bell Lane, Uckfield in 2000

Two 1.5m flood defence schemes are to get under way this spring in East Sussex towns devastated by severe flooding nine years ago.

The Environment Agency said the schemes would reduce the flood risk for 224 properties in Lewes and 30 in Uckfield.

In Lewes, the Cliffe area will be protected by defences on the east bank downstream of the Phoenix Causeway.

In Uckfield town centre, a flood wall will be built in Somerfield car park. The schemes will be finished this year.

The Environment Agency said Uckfield was prone to flooding because of its geographical setting and building on its floodplain.

The town has flooded on at least nine occasions in the past 50 years.

In the October 2000 floods, about 18 homes and 115 businesses were flooded and lifeboats were called in to rescue people from the high street.

Widening river

"Building this wall is the only option currently available to us to reduce flood risk in the town," said Environment Agency spokesman Andrew Pearce.

"Various options were looked at including widening the river, replacing the high street bridge, building walls within the town and upstream storage.

"Although Uckfield has flooded several times in recent years, the number of residential properties affected is relatively low so none of the options considered for Uckfield would secure national funding."

The 1.5m cost of the wall is to be provided by local authorities, along with similar finance for Lewes.

The agency said the work in the Cliffe area, which was also flooded in 200, would improve the appearance of the flood walls with a design sympathetic to the location.

It said it would not be possible to stop flooding in the two towns completely, but the level of new protection in Uckfield would have prevented seven out of the last nine floods in the High Street since 1960.

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