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Agency mops up flood engineers

JOBS GALORE were on offer for civil engineers this week as the Environment Agency launched its assault on the nation's flood defence maintenance backlog.

A massive recruitment campaign launched in NCE today aims to take on up to 180 engineers across the UK. It is hoped that the extra staff will enable the Agency to meet the demands of last October's action plan which followed the 1998 Easter floods.

The Agency published its action plan in response to deficiencies highlighted by retired Suffolk County Council chief executive Peter Bye in his independent report on the Easter flooding. The government pledged £7M a year to allow the Agency to tackle the plan.

Agency head of flood defence Bryan Utteridge described the campaign's 'big bang' recruitment drive as 'a responsible approach to the issues raised following the Easter floods'.

He added that by increasing the Agency's resources - set to cost around £5M a year - it would be able to get straight to work identifying and tackling outstanding problems.

Jobs will span the Agency's regions and cover planning and implementation of capital and improvement schemes, flood forecasting, warning, development control and emergency planning. Engineers will be sought with either degrees or HNC/Ds in civil engineering.

However, the main thrust of the recruitment drive will be to assist the Agency's new national programme of flood defence assessment. This will now also include six-monthly visual inspections of all defences plus regular in-depth surveys of all structures.

'What has never been clarified before is just how wide ranging our inspection regime should be,' said Utteridge.

The Bye report and subsequent instructions from floods minister Elliot Morley meant the Agency's responsibilities to inspect all defences - regardless of ownership - were now clear.

The Agency was also heavily criticised

in the Bye report for its handling of flood warnings in the Easter floods.

Utteridge said that staff would be taken on to create 'an integrated and seamless approach to warning and emergency response'. This, he said, would include staffing regional groups to organise and update flood warning and response across the emergency services.

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