Environment Agency
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UK first self closing flood barriers unveiled to protect tourist town devastated in Cumbrian floods

A well known tourist destination in the Lake District, devastated by flooding in 2009, is set to benefit from innovative new self-closing flood barriers.

Cockermouth’s £4.4 million flood scheme, officially opening on Tuesday, uses automatic barriers to better protect the town. It is the first time the technology has been used to protect a community from flood.

The defences were designed to be deliberately unobtrusive helping to protect Cockermouth’s treasured Georgian heritage and the local tourist economy.  The 120 metre self-closing barrier only rises when the river is in flood, retaining views of the river throughout the rest of the year. The scheme also includes stretches of glass panels, raised embankments and flood gates. Existing riverside structures were also strengthened so that they could be incorporated into the flood defences.

The town saw widespread and unprecedented flooding in 2009 when a month’s rain fell in 24 hours destroying 900 homes and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate. The new scheme will help protect over 400 homes and businesses and local people agreed to part fund its development. The Environment Agency put in £3.3 million with £1.1 million worth of partnership funding contributions provided by residents and businesses, local councils and community groups.

£148 million of partnership funding

Partnership funding was introduced in 2010 and on top of Government investment; local councils, businesses and private investors have so far come forward with a total of £148 million for flood defences since it was introduced.

David Rooke, Director of Flood Risk Management at the Environment Agency said:

'Cockermouth was devastated by flooding in 2009 and the opening of this scheme is a new chapter for the town.  Protecting Cockermouth residents from flood was hugely important, but it was also important that the scheme was sympathetic to the historical surroundings and did not impact on the local tourist trade which is so vital to the town’s economy.'

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: 'The residents and businesses of Cockermouth have suffered from severe flooding so I am delighted that they now have a new state-of-the-art flood defence barrier that will better protect them.

'We all saw the horrific effects of flooding and how it affected the town but everyone pulled together and they deserve considerable praise for their community spirit. This is a fantastic example of how the Government’s partnership funding model can enable more homes and businesses to be protected.'

1 in 6 properties in England and Wales is at risk of flooding. People can check their flood risk on the Environment Agency’s website and sign up for free flood warnings. Alternatively they can call the Environment Agency Flood Line on 0845 988 1188.

First public self closing barriers

This is the first time in the UK self closing barriers have been used in a public scheme. They are in use on a small scale private basis. The barriers were manufactured by UK Flood Barriers.

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