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Environment Agency flood data on River Nene 'flawed'

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NORTHAMPTON RESIDENTS this week launched a head-on battle with the Environment Agency after claiming that recent flood modelling of the river Nene at Upton was flawed.

They said that errors in the model meant that 10,000 new properties, a new road, and the town of Northampton were at greater risk of flooding than the Agency predicted.

Members of the Nene Flood Prevention Alliance (NFPA) believe that crucial data from a major flood in 1947 has been omitted from two flood modelling exercises - the first in 1994 and the second in 1999/2000.

This, it claims, has left the Agency's analysis flawed and the severity of future floods underestimated.

Local resident John Goodall said that if the NFPA's predictions are right, then the Nene, 'could be another Jubilee river', - referring to the recent highprofi le flood prevention scheme at Maidenhead that failed to perform as predicted (NCE 21 September).

But the Agency this week denied that there was a problem with data and insisted that it was using the best available information to model the area.

'The current Nene strategic model is based on catchment conditions as they exist today and has been calibrated using the Easter 1998 floods, the most signifi cant flood event in recent years, ' a spokesman told NCE.

He added that flood data from 1947 was of limited use because of major changes in land use, development and the river.

Residents are upset because the Environment Agency uses the model to review flood risk analysis data submitted in planning applications and advises the local council as to whether development should go ahead.

Ben Smith, deputy leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said the Agency's data provided 'expert assessment', but added: 'The difficulty is that there is no audit of the Agency.' However, Smith is also on West Northampton Development Corporation's board. He admitted: 'Our remit is to receive applications for several thousand houses in the next six months and we will be looking for Agency approval.' Local residents want to see the 1947 flood data added to the local model because, until 1998, the flood was the worst in living memory. Although only 22 properties were damaged, high rainfall joined melting snow to give particularly high water. In contrast, the 1998 floods damaged 2,500 properties and killed two people.

But while the impact of the 1998 event was worse, NFPA data shows that river flows at the Upton Mill gauging station upstream from the town centre were higher in 1947.

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