Carlisle flood defence scheme 'one of best outside London'

A pensioner and his dog are taken to safety on a dinghy by emergency services Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Flood waters in Carlisle were waist-deep following Storm Desmond with emergency services called into action to rescue householders

Work on a £25m flood defence scheme aimed at providing protection for more than 1,600 homes and businesses in Carlisle has started.

It comes after the Cumbrian city's defences were overwhelmed by Storm Desmond in December 2015.

The Environment Agency said the scheme will provide "the highest standard of protection outside London and York".

Carlisle Flood Action Group welcomed the project but raised concerns it had not started earlier.

The first phase around Melbourne Park, Warwick Road and Botcherby Bridge will see existing flood walls raised and extended, some land raised, and work undertaken to improve the flow of water.

Stuart Mounsey, the Environment Agency's flood risk manager for Cumbria, said the new defences would provide protection against Storm Desmond levels of flooding "over the next 80 years".

The first stage should be completed by the end of the year with two further phases following by 2021.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents expressed their distress after being forced from their homes

While confident the scheme will prove beneficial, Sir James Bevan, the organisation's chief executive, told BBC Cumbria it was not possible to protect "against all risk of flooding" and that towns and cities "need to be more resilient".

"We need to accept there will be more flooding and that the target is that homes, business, schools and hospitals can come back much more quickly each time that happens," he added.

John Kelsall, of the Carlisle Flood Action Group, said "it's a place we should've expected to be at two years ago".

"I don't know why it has taken so long to launch the scheme. It was fairly evident where the problem was soon after," he said.

A major incident was declared when Storm Desmond saw record rainfall hit the county and emergency services were enlisted to rescue people from their homes.

It led to criticism of the multimillion-pound defences put in place following flooding in the city 10 years earlier.

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