Newbury companies asked to 'chip in' for flood defences

Hillier & Wilson
Image caption Hillier & Wilson Estate Agents has been flooded four times since 2007

Lorraine Wilson had just moved into new offices in Berkshire in November 2007 when it began to rain heavily.

"It was terrifying," the Newbury estate agent said. "We had 5ins (13cm) of water inside the office."

In the past four years, the business has gone on to be flooded up to four times.

Businesses in the town have been asked by the Environment Agency (EA) to contribute funds to flood defences designed to protect their premises.

The decision has angered traders who suggest they are already paying enough in business rates.

Mrs Wilson agrees, especially as the flood defences planned by by the Environment Agency would not be designed to protect the area of town where her busniess is based.

"We've built our own flood defences since, a board which we put up to stop the water coming in" she said.

'Just hideous'

"It's horrendous. The insurance is going up all the time. It's just hideous. We've had to clean up after being flooded with sewage before.

"I'd be angry if I was asked to contribute to a scheme like that."

Businesses in the town have been asked to jointly meet a £111,000 shortfall on a £1.536m scheme to stop a one-in-100 chance of a major flood in the area.

Newbury Racecourse, New Greenham Park and Vodafone have also been asked to contribute to the scheme.

Image caption Northcroft Lane was flooded by the River Kennet overflowing in 2000.

Ginette Gower, of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce group, said there was "considerable anger" among businesses.

Barry Forkin, who owns Barry Forkin Toomers Hardware Store, says he is "struggling to survive" as it is.

"We're only a small business... and they want to take even more money off us," he said.

"None of the businesses around here have been flooded by the river since the 1960s."

Ms Wilson's business was flooded by surface water bubbling up from under the drains, which was also the cause of flooding across the UK in 2007, following heavy rain.

However, EA says that if the nearby River Kennet were to burst its banks, the resulting flood would be far worse than any experienced in the area since 1960.

Plea meeting

David McKnight, a technical specialist in flood risk at the EA, said: "It's a one in hundred year event, which is the same as a 1% chance in any given year.

"The rivers would spill into the flood plain, like a reservoir filling up, with water up to 1m deep and up to 600m wide."

Mr McKnight estimates if such a flood were to occur, it would affect 381 residents and 69 businesses in the town centre.

Areas include the town centre, residential areas around Russell Road, Northcroft Park, Northcroft Lane and Victoria Park, as well as businesses around Ampere and London roads.

Businesses in the potentially affected area have been written to and asked to attend a meeting to try to convince them to donate money to the flood prevention project at Shaw House on 29 November.

West Berkshire Council has contributed £180,000 to the project and Newbury Town Council has paid £45,000 towards the scheme.

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