More than 100 people visited the Civic Hall, Totnes on Saturday 16 April to see proposals on how flood risk from the River Dart could be reduced in the town.
The ideas were being shared by the Environment Agency who has funding for improving the existing flood defences.
Dan Boswell, Project Manager, said:
We were really pleased that so many people came to talk to us and let us know what they thought about our ideas. The feedback we have received will really help us develop the project.
The proposed work is likely to include raising the existing walls along with individual property protection and the installation of flood gates on slipways.
Added Dan Boswell:
It was good that some of the people who live in the areas where we are proposing to carry out work were able to attend. We really want to develop plans that have the support of people in Totnes, so the insight they were able to give us was invaluable. We have identified a number of individuals who we want to stay in touch with as we develop our ideas.
Some visitors to the event asked about whether upstream catchment management had been considered as part of the improvements. Upstream catchment management is a method of reducing flood risk by carrying out work in the wider river catchment. This can help ease flood flows; not only delaying the time it takes for a river to peak, but also by reducing peak flows. These measures are often small scale, but applied over the entirety of the catchment can produce significant benefit. They can include work like the creation of wet woodland, changes in farming practices and re-meandering.
The project team had considered whether this would be an option for Totnes but found that due to the size of the River Dart catchment and the influence of the tide on flood risk in the town it was not practicable. However, it is being considered elsewhere locally to help reduce flood risk in Buckfastleigh. The Environment Agency is currently investigating options to reduce peak flows on the River Mardle through catchment works upstream.
Some visitors had information about issues in the town which were not connected to the flood defence improvements. The Environment Agency will collate the issues highlighted and pass these on to Devon County Council.
Other points raised by visitors included questions around how the finished defences would look and a plea that the character of the town be taken into consideration in the designs.
Tom Buxton-Smith, an engineer with the Environment Agency, said:
We appreciate that people are very proud of where they live and we want to come up with a design which reflects the heritage of the town but provides robust defences to reduce flood risk, especially to those most at risk.
Visitors were able to try out a flood door which was on display. The toughened door would be used to replace existing doors in properties which would still be at risk of flooding after the existing defences were improved. Many expressed surprise how it just looked like an ordinary door and were reassured this was the case.
The Environment Agency hope to have their designs ready to submit for planning in the summer and, if planning permission is received, intend to start work by the end of the year.
You can visit www.gov.uk and search ‘Totnes Flood’ to stay up to date with the project.