Flood-hit Feniton residents have been handed a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ after a scheme to safeguard 72 homes was backed.
District council bosses have supported the remaining two phases of flood protection work in the village – despite a potential £2million funding gap.
The first two were completed in 2016, but numerous delays have since beset the project.
Phase three – which requires an underground crossing of the Exeter to London Waterloo railway line – will now take place on May 2 and 3 during a planned 52-hour weekend track closure.
Phase four, the construction of the remaining culverted sections of the scheme, is set to follow in April 2021 -subject to further government cash being secured.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet on Wednesday, February 5, backed a timetable for the work.
Service Lead for StreetScene Andrew Hancock told the meeting that discussions with the Environment Agency (EA) have been positive.
He added that additional funding for phase three had been secured and was confident of the economic case for phase four.
Feniton ward member Councillor Susie Bond said it was a huge relief that the EA had given its seal of approval, adding: “Communities at risk of flooding will be helped.
“If we don’t get phase three done, the properties upstream of phase one and two will still be at risk.”
Cllr Ian Thomas, portfolio holder for finance, added: “It is a high risk and I don’t like taking indicative promises from government as a promise for investment.
“We are between a rock and a hard place. If we don’t do it, there could be continued flooding of properties. If we do it, we could have a £1.4million funding gap.
“But I think we have to complete the lot. Hopefully the money will be recovered, but, if not, we have to adjust the capital funding program elsewhere.
“We have to take a punt, but if only three out of four are funded, it becomes a very expensive hole to fill.”
Cllr Kevin Blakey added: “The damage to the fabric of community as a whole is something we have to take into account, and something that could happen repeatedly and damage a lot of people’s lives.
“We have to take steps to alleviate it and it cannot be put off any longer.
“If we didn’t proceed on the basis of risk, phase four won’t be funded – that would be a very poor decision indeed.”
The Feniton Flood Alleviation scheme largely consists of a 900-metre-long new overflow culvert.
It will run from the north of the village, under the railway line, and into the original watercourse which was enlarged as part of phase one and two.
Feniton has a long history of flooding dating back to 1901.
The village has experienced a number of flooding events since New Feniton was built in the early 1970s.
The existing watercourse and railway culvert have insufficient capacity to cope with excess water.
Consequently, water overflows the banks, runs through homes and backs up against the railway line – flooding properties further.
A local resilience group was set up after extensive flooding in 2008 and 2012.
Cllr Bond said after the meeting: “The news…to press ahead with phase three of the flood scheme has been greeted with resounding cheers in the village.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel for flooding misery in Feniton, although there is still a long way to go to complete the works.”
Cllr Geoff Jung, EDDC portfolio holder for the environment, added: “Because of the number of houses at risk, the Feniton scheme is our number one priority, with the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan a close second.
“This scheme will protect 72 houses from flooding that has been a constant threat to Feniton residents for many years.”
Find out more about the Feniton Flood Alleviation Scheme here.