Winter 2014 saw some of the worst flooding to hit Winchester since the major event of 2000 and local MP Steve Brine was on-hand to help and support affected constituents.
LATEST UPDATE: scroll down page for details of £895,000 scheme to protect central Winchester
Steve says; "February 2014 was a month I will never forget and while it only lasted four weeks, it felt a great deal longer. Rising groundwater levels and a swollen River Itchen threatened hundreds of homes as the heaviest and most persistent rainfall for 200 years fell across the country. When it happened, I didn't flee the country on holiday, I asked for special permission to stay out of Westminster and stayed in my constituency so I could muck in."
Homes in the area of Winchester City Centre knows as The Soke prepared for the worst as levels on the River Itchen steadily rose and were held back by the ancient City Mill and the adjacent Roman bridge. At one point, 12,000 litres per-second were flowing down the River Itchen through the centre of Winchester.
The aptly named Water Lane became the focus of regional and national media attention as the Environment Agency and local authorities came together to protect homes from flooding. This was exacerbated by the plight of St Bede School which was closed and had to be rebuilt in 2000. It was once again flooded but did not fully close.
Steve Brine spent time with EA officials going door to door chatting with local residents and businesses to answer their questions and coordinate any additonal help required.
The work of various local agencies, including the army and the Fire Brigade, combined to protect Winchester city centre and homes were spared the fate many suffered in the year 2000. Steve praised this local effort in the House of Commons which ensured barely a handful of homes in his constituency actually suffered habitable flooding.
The MP also took the opportunity to tell MPs about the unique project, led by the Environment Agency, to place a restriction in the River Itchen upstream of Winchester in the Itchen Valley at Easton.
Away from the city centre, saturated groundwater levels caused multiple problems for areas including; Hursley, Sutton Scotney, Littleton, Headbourne Worthy, Twyford and Kings Worthy.
Steve visited every community on numerous occasions to either help on the ground or channel help where it was most needed.
As the constituency moved from crisis to recovery and flood levels receeded, Steve chaired a series of emergency meetings with affected communities using his position to get EA, council and local representatives in one room at very short notice.
In April 2014 he brought the Prime Ministers' flood envoy, Rt Hon Greg Barker MP, to Winchester to see for himself the efforts made to protect local homes from habitable flooding and to explain important changes that were needed to various Government flood relief funds.
His attention subsequently turned back to Parliament but where he successfully lobbied Ministers to make changes to the Repair and Renewal Grant (RRG) in favour of constituents who suffered damage to local sewerage systems. You can read the Minister's letter to Steve here as a PDF.
In November 2014 Steve Brine led a key House of Commons debate to make the case for areas, such as Winchester, which were badly affected by flooding but did not qualify for major flood mitigation funding under the national Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA) scheme because of the small number of homes actually flooded. This campaign continues and Steve is working with Hampshire County Council and Ministers on their Hampshire 'Pathfinder' programme which seeks to make the case for the wider socio-economic and community impact of flooding as well the number of homes actually flooded. You can read/watch back this landmark debate here.
Then, in January 2015, Steve secured further changes to the RRG as he succesfully persuaded Treasury Ministers to extend the deadline for works to be completed where Government funds are being deployed.
New flood defences for Winchester City Centre
During the crisis of Winter 2013/14, constituents asked Steve to lobby for a long-term solution to protect some of the most threatened homes, businesses and schools from future flooding event. A great deal of work followed with Hampshire County Council, the Environment Agency, Winchester City Council and Southampton University and the result was a consultation (in January 2016) on a scheme to protect homes in the North Walls, Park Avenue, Water Lane area as well as St Bede Church of England Primary School, the University of Southampton School of Art and River Park Leisure Centre.
That closed successfully at the end of January 2016 and a £895,000 project led by Hampshire County Council was announced in June 2016 with an expected completion date of Christmas 2016.
County Councillor Fiona Mather says; "A low wall with deployable floodbarriers at openings will be built around North Walls and the ParkAvenue area including St Bede School, The Art College, and homesand businesses. In addition, wider work across Hampshire will alsotake place in partnership with the Environment Agency."
Steve Brine added; "This is really good news, and FionaMather, who represents the area on the county council has beencentral in landing this deal. We're pleased the scheme receivedpositive feedback during the public consultation last year and is setto be completed by Christmas."
Pictured; Steve Brine being briefed by Mike O'Neill from EA in Water Lane (top), lending a hand with sand-bag deployment in Littleton, speaking to Sky News on a dark day at the height of the 2013/14 crisis in central Winchester and (bottom) Cllr Fiona Mather of HCC briefs Steve on the new flood defence plans for Winchester City Centre.
More information and related stories on stevebrine.com ...
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New flood defence for Winchester
Flood consultation for Park Avenue
Time extension secured for key flood grant
Steve Brine presses Ministers on Pathfinder scheme
MP secures flood money for local residents
MP holds first post flood session with Littleton representatives
MP chairs post flood meeting in Hursley
Twyford meeting after the floods
Post flood meeting for the Worthys
MP tells Commons the Winchester story
MP speaks to police over careless drivers in flood-hit Springvale
Sandbags (and the army) at dawn in Kings Worthy
MP to brief COBRA as he thanks flooding agencies
Success for flood-hit Twyford playgroup
Steve returns to Twyford
Sky News visit city to tell our story
MP visits Hursley as sewage concerns remain
Flash floods hit Sutton Scotney
Helping out in Littleton
City homes protected by flooding Itchen Valley farmland
Teamwork at St Bede as city flooding continues
Meridian TV film from Monday 10 February
MP visits flood-hit Twyford
Kings Worthy hit hard by flooding
MP works with agencies as floods loom
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