No flow area

PUBLISHED: 12:07 12 January 2007 | UPDATED: 22:30 28 May 2010

A 4x4 off-road vehicle sets out to cross Welney Washes on the flooded A1101.

A 4x4 off-road vehicle sets out to cross Welney Washes on the flooded A1101.

VILLAGERS are sceptical that promised repairs to Great Ouse floodgates will end their misery. People living in Welney believe the only way to cure the problem is to raise the A1101 across Welney Washes. Repairs to Denver Sluice are included in a £19milli

Dennis Birch and Georgina Webb at the Lamb and Flag pub.

VILLAGERS are sceptical that promised repairs to Great Ouse floodgates will end their misery.

People living in Welney believe the only way to cure the problem is to raise the A1101 across Welney Washes.

Repairs to Denver Sluice are included in a £19million package of flood defence measures announced by the Environment Agency.

The massive gates have become so silted that they cannot be opened to allow water from the Ouse to run off through the tidal river course, which has become silted up as river flows are diverted via the relief channel.

It makes some inland areas such as Welney Washes more susceptible to flooding.

That, in turn, has made the A1101 across Welney Washes impassable in recent weeks, leaving villagers facing long delays.

Nigel Woonton, the Environment Agency's area flood risk manager, said the sluice would be dammed off and the gates cleared of silt for inspection, to see if modifications could be made to stop them silting up in future.

The inspection would establish if the doors could be replaced and the plan would be to install some form of mechanism to get rid of the silt.

"The problem of silt in the tidal river is a much bigger problem and we have a study being funded next year to look at the issue of silt and how we might deal with the problem," he said. "Dredging the silt is not the answer."

Siltation in the tidal Ouse is also being blamed for silt building up around Welmore Lake sluice, built eight years ago upstream of Denver at the end of the Delph, which drains Welney Washes.

Chairman of Welney Parish Council, Councillor Ken Goodger, said: "They've told us Welmore sluice is working, but it can't work when the river is full of silt.

"When you ride over the bridges at Downham, Stowbridge and St Germans, look at all the silt that's in the river.

"There's no way they're going to get the water off the washes when it's silted up like that. When they can't get the water off, the road floods. If they could only just raise it 15 or 16 inches it would make a lot of difference.

"If they can't get the water off the Washes, they've got to raise the road. We had a few weeks where it was flooded before Christmas and we're now going to get another three or four."

Businesses in Welney say their trade has been hit. At the Lamb and Flag, landlord Dennis Birch continues to lose about a third of his custom this winter through flooding on the A1101, which has been impassable to most cars for seven weeks.

"We still have loads of cancellations," he said. "Usually this time of year it is the main time for trade from the Wildfowl Trust, now the swans have arrived. It's really frustrating for us.

"If they can't keep the rivers clear there is no point in spending £19million on repairs," he said. "Why not spend £19million on raising the road?"

His partner Georgina Webb said: "It backs up the fact that the rivers are not being looked after, which is what we have been saying all the time it has been flooded.

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