Fight for flood defence measures goes on as minister visits Hambledon

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HAMBLEDON has a ‘very strong case’ to finally get the cash that will pay for a flood defence scheme, a leading government minister has said.

Greg Barker, a minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, toured the village today and met people who had been flooded during the winter storms.

Energy minister Greg Barker, centre, with Tony Higham, the chairman of Hambledon Flood Action Group, in Hambledon  ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (141267-688)

Energy minister Greg Barker, centre, with Tony Higham, the chairman of Hambledon Flood Action Group, in Hambledon ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (141267-688)

His walk through the historic streets on a sunny day was in stark contrast to three months ago when the roads were submerged under a foot of water and 1,000 pumps were working to prevent serious damage to homes.

He will report his findings directly back to David Cameron, whose government will have to decide which flood schemes to prioritise.

Mr Barker told The News: ‘We are making over £270m available of additional funding for flooding works across the country.

‘Hambledon is making a very strong case and we will be looking at that.

‘I have not come here today to make any announcements about funding but I am getting a very clear message from the villagers that what they need is this pipe.’

He added: ‘I’ve been incredibly impressed by the stoicism of the residents.’

The solution would be a 1m-wide pipe under the village’s main road to collect the masses of groundwater that accumulates from the hills. The cost would be £3.4m and Hampshire County Council has already committed to providing £2m, leaving a £1.4m shortfall.

Mr Barker visited the home of Dr Ian Ruthven-Stuart, whose cottage was flooded.

The pensioner told The News: ‘We are trying to keep the pressure up. Nothing has been done in 14 years. We need this pipe.’

Caroline Dibden, vice-chairwoman of Hambledon Parish Council, said: ‘We absolutely want an outcome.

‘We’d like to know the funding was in place so work could start this year.

‘It’s important – it’s the one issue that dominates everybody’s thinking in Hambledon. Everyone is asking “Have we got the money?”.

‘It would be so utterly disappointing if we come out of this without a solution.’

George Hollingbery, Meon Valley MP, said Mr Barker was one of 11 envoys sent from Westminster to flood-hit areas around in the country.

He said: ‘I am very pleased he’s here so we can show him just how tough things were in Hambledon.’

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