The last line of defence against the floods

Floods are an ever-present threat
Floods are an ever-present threat
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Millions of pounds are being sunk in to the area in a bid to combat future floods, The News can reveal.

From Eastoke in Hayling Island all along the shoreline to Lee-on-the-Solent, funds are being unlocked to build new coastal defences.

While the threat of rising sea levels seems like a far away concern, experts are working against the clock to protect Portsmouth and the surrounding areas from coastal floods.

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership looks after the risk of coastal flooding for Portsmouth, Havant, Fareham and Gosport.

Tucked away in a council office in Havant, which overlooks the Budds Farm wastewater treatment centre, a team of experts are now working to bring in cash to the area to help design new flood defences.

Their hard work has led to millions of pounds being pumped into the area, including £1m to design a flood defence strategy in Portsmouth and £3m to look after Eastoke in Hayling Island.

These designs could then end up seeing £80m being spent on Portsea Island alone for flood defences.

And the partnership between the four areas has earned high praise from the Environment Agency — which holds the purse strings for flood defence funds.

Senior coastal engineer Matt Hosey said: ‘I think we’re entering a big era for our area.

‘Funds are tight nationally but being an island city and one of the areas at risk we are being held as quite a high priority nationally.

‘We have done very well bidding for money for various schemes partly because of the way we are structured and also because of the area.

‘It’s an island city which is something you won’t see anywhere else in the country.

‘We have had fantastic feedback from the Environment Agency and they hold the purse strings.

‘Every time we bid for money we get it.’

Before 2008, councils in the four areas looked after their own coastlines.

But Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council decided to join forces to make the job easier.

A year later, Gosport Borough Council joined them and has now been followed by Fareham Borough Council to form the partnership.

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership now protects around 162km of coastline from Havant to Fareham.

More than 40,000 properties within that area have been identified as being at risk of flood or erosion in the next 100 years, when the sea level is expected to rise by 1m.

Members of the team are responsible for everything from drawing up bids for funding to researching flood risk plans and construction schemes.

And every once in a while it is their job to brave storms on Southsea seafront to close the flood barriers there.

Mr Hosey added: ‘Previously it was a very ad-hoc approach and it was decided we should do things in a more joined up way. We are one team working for all the areas and it works beautifully.

‘Everyone really enjoys what they do and we have very high-calibre people.

‘It’s an attractive place to come and work.’

When dealing with the flood threat, there are four options to protect the shoreline: hold the line; advance the line; managed redesign or no active intervention.

In most cases in our area, experts have decided the best option is a hold the line policy, where defences are maintained and installed around the coastline.

Managed realignment means artificially changing the shape of the shoreline, while advance the line means means reclaiming land and building defences much further out to sea.

Both options are tricky in the Portsmouth area where space is at a premium.

No active intervention means doing nothing and allowing nature to take its course, which in Portsea Island would see rising sea levels increasing the risk of flooding to the city’s homes.

But while the experts go up against the clock to put a plan into action, they are reminding people to do whatever they can to help themselves.

Homeowners are responsible for the protection of their own property. Raising electrical sockets at least 1.5m above ground level, laying ceramic tiles and fitting one-way valves are some of the many ways to deal with water potentially getting indoors.

To find out if your home is at risk of flooding, visit environment-agency.gov.uk.

For tips on how to protect your home or business from flooding, visit thefpa.org.uk.

PORTSMOUTH

Current status: £1m in funding to design a flood protection plan. Estimated it will lead to £80m of construction schemes in the next few years.

MILLIONS of pounds worth of sea defence projects are in the pipeline for Portsmouth.

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership has already been given £1m to design a flood defence plan for the two parts of the city which are most at risk — Southsea and North Portsea.

And the authorities hope this will translate into around £80m worth of construction work in the near future.

A recent study found to protect the population of the city, the authorities need to hold the line there by using sea defences to keep the water at bay.

Defences could include sea blocks or low-level sea walls.

Matt Hosey, from the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership, said: ‘We will try and keep the historic identity in the design or any defences to make sure it keeps the historic feel.’

One of the oldest sewer systems in the city is 150 years old and Portsmouth has a risk of flooding from drainage.

Residents in Southsea suffered floods in 2000 and 2008, after drains failed to cope with heavy rain.

City engineers have to find ways of making sure extra demand from a growing city doesn’t put extra pressure on the sewers.

The council says it will work with developers interested in the area to cut down the risk.

Martin Lavers, the council’s assistant head of service for transport and environment, said: ‘We’re starting a really exciting time for the city.

‘But we can’t just put homes on Tipner and think all the water is going to go into the existing system, so it has to be sustainable.’

GOSPORT AND FAREHAM

Current status: £544,000 in funding has been given to design a flood management strategy for the coastline from the River Hamble to Portchester.

EXPERTS are now looking into what options there are to protect homes and businesses in Gosport and Fareham.

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership has been given £544,000 to come up with a strategy for the coastline from Portchester to the River Hamble.

More than 60 properties in the area are at risk from coastal erosion in the next 100 years.

The area is currently defended by groynes, promenades, sea walls and revetements, which vary in effectiveness and are in poor condition in places.

Matt Hosey, from the partnership, said: ‘Historically, Gosport and Fareham had dealt with their shoreline in a very ad-hoc basis.

‘So they have given us £544,000 to decide the strategy and we can help those areas most at risk and then we can look at schemes.

‘We have put ourselves in a good place to mititate that risk over the next 100 years.’

Once completed, it will set the ball rolling for capital funding to come into the area to build new defences or repair old ones.

HAVANT

Current status: £3m every five years to manage the beach at Eastoke.

Eastoke Point Costal Defence Scheme is in planning stages and is estimated to lead to a £5m construction

SOMETIMES it is the simple methods which are the most effective.

So in Eastoke, on Hayling Island, trucks pick up tonnes of shingle from one part of the beach and dump them back at the other end to help combat the strong stormy waves there.

Over time, the shingle gets dragged back towards the point of the island, but a £3m grant lasting five years means the trucks can keep coming back.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership is developing the Eastoke Point Coastal Defence Scheme to find other ways to help.

These could be a new rock revetement buried at the top of the beach and new rock groynes.

Matt Hosey, from the partnership, said: ‘We have a strategy in place for Eastoke and we actually carry out beach maintenance already.

‘A shingle beach is a great defence. In 1985 it got a huge shingle replenishment to build the beach up and now dredgers and trucks are putting shingle back on the beach.’

Drainage flooding is an also issue in the Havant area, as proved by the woe faced by residents in Emsworth.

Drainage channels are thought to be responsible for a slew of floods in recent years.