Work on Bridgwater tidal barrier could start in 2023
Written by Bridgwater Mercury on August 2, 2021
THE construction of the Bridgwater tidal barrier could begin in early-2023 – provided that central government grants permission.
Sedgemoor District Council is working with the Environment Agency (EA) to deliver the new £99M barrier across the River Parrett, which it is claimed will provide better flood protection to 11,300 homes and 1,500 businesses.
The barrier has already received funding from the government’s towns fund (as part of a package for Bridgwater in excess of £23M), as well as contributions from housing developers through the community infrastructure levy (CIL).
But environment secretary George Eustace MP still has not granted permission for the scheme to go ahead, more than 18 months after plans were first submitted.
To allow the barrier to be built, permission must be granted under the Transport and Works Act 1992, due to the need to modify the existing watercourse.
The council and the EA submitted plans to Defra in December 2019 – but it took until January 2021 for the proposals to be scrutinised and then passed to Mr Eustace.
While other significant decisions on infrastructure usually take six months – such as the dualling of the A303 – Mr Eustace has “no timetable or time limit” for his decision.
With parliament now on summer recess, it is unlikely any decision will be made before September – and it could take up to a further six months for the decision to formally take effect.
EA project executive Graham Quarrier told a meeting of the Somerset Rivers Authority board on Friday (July 23) that he was also waiting on the Treasury to approve the outline business case.
He said in his written report: “The project will be re-submitted to the Treasury later once contract prices are established.
“Environmental surveys relating to the improved flood banks are under way, as is regular silt monitoring by boat that will inform design of the barrier. Further ground investigation for bank improvements is being planned.
“Our construction advisers are working on the design of the barrier and downstream defences, with the particular aims of speeding delivery and reducing carbon.
“We are planning to start setting up the site in late-2022 to enable construction to start in early-2023, dependent on achieving approvals and consents.”
Mr Quarrier added that he had managed to secure an additional £750,000 from the government towards the cost of the barrier over the last three months, with further funding being sought in the run-up to Christmas.
The council has not yet disclosed how much of the towns fund allocation will go towards delivering the barrier.
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