A long-awaited bid to protect more than 70 Feniton properties from flooding looks set to finally net the go-ahead – but will cost £2million more than initially planned.
The first two phases of an alleviation scheme for the village were completed in 2016, but numerous delays have since beset the project.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet will be asked to sign off a timetable for the final two phases when it meets on Wednesday, February 4.
Phase three requires an under-track crossing of the Exeter to Waterloo rail line and is set to take place in May during a planned 52-hour weekend track closure.
Phase four, the construction of the remaining culverted sections of the scheme, would follow in 2021.
An officers’ report to cabinet members says that the current the project budget is insufficient to complete both remaining phases without further applications for government grant cash.
It added that further delays would only add additional costs to the scheme.
The report states: “This project will benefit more than 70 properties in Feniton as well as providing relief from the anxiety of the ever-present flood risk.
“Much time and effort has gone into securing the May 2020 UTX [under-track crossing], and delaying this will add additional cost to the project.
“There are no other possession dates available in 2020, and dates for 2021 have not yet been planned.
“The risk to EDDC is that phase three is built, and if phase four is not funded, the project has wasted £770,000 for an unconnected culvert under the railway, and offering no flood risk reduction to Feniton.”
The officers recommend that cabinet should agree to proceed with the delivery of phase three of the flood alleviation scheme in May 2020 – and that phase four be scheduled for 2021/22.
This, they say, to allow sufficient time to apply for further government grants and to plan and procure the project for a summer construction.
The report adds: “To date, the project has cost more than originally anticipated, and future costs are higher than the original approved project appraisal report.
“The original total project cost was £1.7m. The revised total project cost is £3.7m. Therefore the project increase is £2m.”
For the phase three railway closure, EDDC’s cabinet is recommended to approve going with an ‘emerging cost option’ in which the authority will pay the actual price for the work delivered, rather than a fixed price with additional risk costed in.
This is priced at £767,035, as opposed to the £1,002,094 fixed price option.
The total could reduce if more works are planned on the line.
Phase four has recently been re-priced by a contractor at £1.52million – more than double the original budget price.
The report says: “Phase four is required to complete the scheme and, without it, the majority of the properties at flood risk remain at risk.”
There is a current funding deficit of nearly £1.5million to complete the remaining two phases of the scheme.
However, the report says it is assumed Environment Agency funding to enable the phase three works to go ahead in May will be approved.
And as long as additional grant money has been approved by central government, phase four will be delivered during 2021/22.
Recommending the schemes go ahead, the report says: “The largest risk is that EDDC commit to phase three and no additional money is found to complete phase four. Leaving EDDC with an expensive, unused asset under the railway, with no reduction in flood risk to the residents of Feniton, or the need to fund an additional £1.4m ourselves.
“Should phase three not happen in May 2020, the largest risk is reputation damage, but it will also incur further abortive costs from Network Rail, and they need confirmation on proceeding with phase the by mid/end February to enable mobilisation of their contractors to meet the possession window.
“A land owner has had part of his orchard felled to allow phases three and four to go ahead.
“Delaying the scheme means he cannot replant trees until the scheme is complete, which means further compensation may be due for every year no scheme is built.”