Yet again, the flood alleviation project in Mitchley Avenue/Lower Barn Road has been delayed. Many residents are affected by the regular flooding that occurs close to Riddlesdown Station and effectively cuts Riddlesdown in two.
Flooding has been an issue here for many years and since becoming a councillor in 2018 I have been urging the Council to act to ameliorate this issue. The first step was a Section 19 F|ood Investigation that looked into the causes of the flooding and proposed solutions. We agreed to phase the work to make it more affordable and the first phase was due to start last August/September. Summer 2020 came and went with no activity. Officers had been told by the Labour Administration to stop spending, but we local Councillors were not informed. On 11th November 2020, I was again informed that the project was ready to go and had funding - and just a few hours later the Council's financial difficulties finally crystalised in a Section 114 notice - the Council was effectively declared bankrupt and all projects were stopped.
A lot of work has taken place to get the project up and running again. In January 2021 I was advised that the project had been agreed by the newly formed Spending Review Panel. We were, again, 'good to go' for an April 2021 start. In March I was advised that all equipment and resources were ready. And then April came, and April went, with no activity taking place - again.
So where are we now? It's taken a lot of discussions in which I have engaged with the Council's Chief Executive, the Director of Finance and the Director of Public Realm. It now seems that the cost of the project has more than doubled. I don't know how this can be when the work has apparently been fully costed before. It also now seems they want to reduce the scope of the project in order to avoid needing to negotiate with third parties to access land. Given the increase in cost, it has now been requested that more investigations take place to ensure that the project will achieve the desired aim. Again, it is unclear why such investigations had failed to be completed previously.
I have a meeting with officers next week to learn what the next steps might be and will keep residents informed.