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NCE Live News Updates Monday 10 February: Major battle against floods in Berkshire

Thames Valley Police has declared the flooding in Berkshire a major incident.

5.15pm: Atkins has secured a new deal to support the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

The engineering consultant was awarded the one-year contract by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to provide state-wide programme management services.

Hurricane Katrina devastated areas of the US Gulf Coast in 2005.

Atkins has already helped Mississippi secure more than $3bn of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for its recovery operation.


4.40pm: Thames Valley Police has declared the flooding in Berkshire a major incident.

The police force is working with the fire service and the NHS to cope with the effects of the rampant water.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has cancelled all training to maximise the resources it has to help people affected by flooding.

Military personnel are placing sandbags in a breach of the Kennet canal in a bid to avert the flooding of the Pingewood electricity distribution facility.

Assistant chief constable Chris Shead said: “We are continuing to work with local communities and partner agencies to minimise the impact of flooding and protect as many homes and buildings as we can.

“The flooding in the whole of Thames Valley has been declared a major incident, which is declared when an incident requires a significant multi-agency response.”

4pm: A fresh landslip has occurred on the London-to-Hastings rail line.

The embankment collapse at Stonegate in East Sussex was the fifth landslip on the line in the last six weeks.

It follows two between Battle and Robertsbridge; and two near Wadhurst.

Read the full story here.

3.45pm: Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith has hit back at communities secretary Eric Pickles over the Agency’s handling of the floods crisis.

Pickles yesterday told the BBC that the government made a mistake by not dredging in Somerset – and that it was following EA advice.

But Smith told the Today programme this morning: “When I hear someone criticising the expertise and the professionalism of my staff at the EA, who know 100 times more about flood risk management than any politician ever does, I’m not going to sit idly by.

“The EA is bound by the rules laid down by government so when someone says they followed the advice of the EA, they were actually following the Treasury rules laid down that say how much we can spend on any individual flood defence scheme.”

Smith said Treasury rules meant the EA could only invest in flood defence work where the benefits would be eight times greater than the cost.

“In Somerset the maximum we were allowed to spend under those rules was £400,000,” he said.

“We put that money on the table 12 months ago. We said that because of the local concern of the lack of dredging and the impact of the floods in 2012 we would put up the maximum amount on the table – ‘Here it is and now we need other people to come to the table as well.’”

The extra money was not forthcoming so the anticipated scheme - which involved dredging - could not start, Smith said.

He added: “The situation now has completely changed because not only has the government come up with some extra money for Somerset but they’ve said the Treasury rules won’t apply for the Somerset Levels.”


3pm: Boston’s long awaited £99M flood defence project will not be among the 55 schemes getting underway in 2014/15, it has been confirmed.

The Lincolnshire town was ravaged by floods in December, with 579 properties affected and an existing flood defence wall damaged.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “Once the project is approved, construction of the Boston Tidal Barrier will begin in the summer of 2017 and be completed by the end of 2019.

“There are still a number of things to do, including designing the barrier and the Transport and Works Act Order application, before construction can start.

“Significant projects like this take time because they need complex legal permissions to be built. Everything is being done to progress the Boston Barrier as early as possible.”


2.45pm: Trains have been suspended between Staines and Windsor & Eton due to the flooding in Berkshire.

Water levels in the River Thames are extremely high and the ground is also heavily saturated.

Network Rail said: “Water levels are expected to rise throughout the day and it is expected to be some time before we are able to re-open the railway line.”

The line from Oxford to Didcot has been disrupted by flooding at Hinksey, while groundwater is causing problems with equipment in the Maidenhead area.


2.15pm: Drivers in Berkshire have been warned against using roads that have been closed due to flooding.

West Berkshire Council said there was “substantial” surface water on many of its roads.

It added: “Drivers must take extra care and keep speeds down. This is particularly important in residential areas where wash from surface water can affect properties.

“There are still reports of drivers ignoring road closure signs and driving down roads that are closed due to flooding. This is illegal, dangerous, and potentially life threatening. The police have announced that they will fine motorists if they are found to be driving down roads that have been closed.”


12.45pm: Network Rail has accepted the Office of Rail Regulation’s decision on funding for infrastructure work in Control Period 5.

The rail operator will have £38bn to maintain, renew and improve the network from April 2014 to March 2019.

Chief executive David Higgins said: “The railway is a complex, long-term, critical element of Britain’s infrastructure and needs sustained, high levels of investment if we are to meet the public’s rapidly increasing appetite for rail travel, and businesses’ desire to move freight off congested roads.”

He added: “We are disappointed that we will start CP5 at a lower level of performance than was assumed at the time of the final determination. This is partly because of the weather but we also recognise our responsibility for the missed targets.

“We can still meet the targets for the end of the control period. Although we cannot do so as quickly as assumed or in all weather, we will work with operators to improve performance as fast as possible.”


12.30pm: The Environment Agency has issued 14 severe flood warnings along the River Thames in south-east England.

Communities from Datchet to Shepperton Green, including Ham Court and Chertsey, have been warned of a danger to life as river levels continue to rise.

“Severe property flooding” is expected in parts of Berkshire and Surrey today and tomorrow, according to the Agency.

England has faced the wettest January since 1766 and is on course for the wettest winter in 250 years. 

The Agency said it had teams out in force across England day and night, deploying demountable defences, repairing damaged coastal defences, deploying sandbags along riverbanks, clearing river blockages, monitoring water levels and sending out flood warnings.

Chief executive Paul Leinster said: “Extreme weather will continue to threaten communities this week, with further severe flooding expected Monday evening into Tuesday along the Thames in Berkshire and Surrey.”  


9.45am: The construction industry has recorded its longest period of sustained growth for five years, according to a respected report.

The Construction Trade Survey showed that building activity had increased in the final three months of 2013 – marking three consecutive quarters of growth.

Report producer the Construction Products Association said this was the first time this had happed since 2008.

CPA economics director Noble Francis said: “The recovery, which started in 2013 Q2, continued, though risks remain. 

“The rises in activity were slower than in previous quarters, and orders for new work similarly decelerated, potentially highlighting uncertainty among contractors as to whether the recovery would be sustained.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Why has it taken Eric Pickle's comments about the EA to sting Lord Smith into a response which provides more information about the funding rules available to the EA?

    Is this just more politics ignoring the root cause which is a lack of planning for extreme events. Smith now states that the scheme that they would have taken forward involved dredging, although only last week we were being told that dredging would not work!

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  • Road closures aren't always sensible. two weekends ago we came to a police sign stating closure about 50 yds short of Wadhurst Railway Station. We parked and walked the rest of the way to find that a tree had fallen just round the corner but had been cleared from one half of the road. The alternative was about five miles round and no attempt had been made to signpost it. We were early so after obtaining tickets we returned to the sign and guided people past the obstruction. I would resist any fine and consider the episode as a cry of wolf.


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  • So a cost benefit ratio of eight is required for the EA to invest in any works. That is a stunningly high ratio, which is well beyond most government investment thresholds. Dare we ask why?

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