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Channel closure stokes Jubilee River row

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A KEY flood water diversion channel on the Thames was partially closed just before communities in Berkshire were swamped following heavy rain last year, the Environment Agency admitted this week.

An Agency spokesman admitted that the Jubilee River flood channel had been partially put out of service so that it could carry out emergency river bank stabilisation works.

But he claimed that the flooding would have happened regardless of whether the channel was closed.

Residents flood committee Community Support Group South (CSGS) seized on the admission as evidence that flooding downstream of the Jubilee River could have been prevented.

CSGS was formed to put residents' views to local Flood Risk Action Groups (FRAGs).

The CSGS claims flood levels downstream were increased by up to 125mm because the Agency delayed full operation of the Jubilee River until 4 January, after the flood peak had passed.

The Jubilee River is designed to divert flood water along a route shorter than that taken by River Thames. It is supposed to discharge it back into the river ahead of the storm surge, reducing flood risk.

An inquiry into the floods was conducted by the FRAGs under the independent chairmanship of Arup associate Clive Onions. This vindicated the Jubilee River (NCE 1 April).

Disagreement focuses on the operation of Taplow weir, which is used to divert water into the Jubilee River.

CSGS learnt last week that the weir's control gate was not operated on 2 and 3 January because of fears over river bank stability.

The revelation came during an open day convened to disseminate the findings of Onions' report into the flooding.

The Environment Agency dismissed CSCS's concerns:'There is no correlation at all between work going on and the effect downstream, ' said a spokeswoman.

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