The next stage of a long-awaited flood protection scheme in Feniton has been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.
Work on an under-track crossing was due to take place on May 2 and 3 during a 52-hour weekend closure of the Exeter to Waterloo line.
But East Devon District Council (EDDC) has postponed non-essential construction projects to reduce health risks to workers, healthcare staff and local residents as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Phase three of the scheme to safeguard 72 homes has been put on hold – but the authority says it will ensure it can be delivered ‘as soon as practically possible’.
Councillor Geoff Jung, portfolio holder for the environment, said: “I would stress that this is a temporary delay and that we are totally committed to completing the Feniton flood scheme as well all the other flood and sea defence schemes that we have currently in hand.”
Feniton ward member Cllr Susie Bond added: “This is hugely disappointing, but not unexpected, news given the national emergency in which we find ourselves.
“We shall look forward to hearing more positive news once the crisis is over and we can work with Network Rail in finding a new possession window.”
While it is extremely frustrating to have to make the decision to delay this work, the risk of flooding has to be placed second to the risk of Covid-19 for both the workers and the residents – Cllr Peter Faithfull
The first phases of the scheme were completed in 2016, but numerous delays have since beset the project.
Phase three requires an underground crossing of the Exeter to London Waterloo railway line.
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.
The original total project cost was £1.7million but, as a result of the years of delays, the revised total project cost had risen to £3.7million.
EDDC leader Cllr Ben Ingham said: “It is a tremendous shame that we have to postpone this vital project for Feniton, especially in light of the hard work to get us this far.
“However, we cannot take high risks so there must be a delay. But we will be back.”
Cllr Peter Faithfull, deputy portfolio holder for environment, added: “While it is extremely frustrating to have to make the decision to delay this work, the risk of flooding has to be placed second to the risk of Covid-19 for both the workers and the residents.”
Find out more about the Feniton Flood Alleviation Scheme here.