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Boston's barrier boost - More thought about how best to spend £11 million

How best to spend £11 million realising the added-value economic benefits of the Boston Barrier flood protection scheme are to be discussed by Lincolnshire County Council's executive on Tuesday, February 3.

The barrier is being constructed to reduce the risk of tidal flooding, as experienced in December 2013. However, partners believed that, with additional investment, the project could also give the town an economic boost.  In April 2012 the council earmarked £11m for this work, and the executive will now agree the most effective way of using the money.

Certain economic benefits will happen automatically as a result of reducing the risk of tidal flooding in the borough.  However these can be significantly increased by investing in Boston's waterways to attract more tourists and businesses into the town.

Future waterways improvements, such as the Fens Waterway Link, are possible because the barrier can be used to hold water in the Haven, something known as water level management (WLM). Others could be done in advance of WLM.

Until recently it was thought that operating WLM straight away would bring significant economic regeneration. However, a recent study has revealed that introducing WLM at a later date, and instead making other investments, such as new moorings and upgraded locks first, will bring benefits sooner and with greater certainty.

Cllr Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council, welcomed the report and conclusions and said it made "a lot of sense".

Cllr Bedford said: "It has always been the Borough Council's and the community's view that the vital flood defence elements of the Boston Barrier must take absolute priority and be delivered on time.

"Using the Barrier to also hold water back in The Haven to create new regeneration opportunities is also very exciting, and now might form a future phase of the project, while regeneration monies are spent on associated and more immediate improvements at Grand Sluice and on additional moorings. This will ensure that our town sees earlier benefits from Lincolnshire County Council's investment without disadvantaging our existing boating community or slowing progress on the Barrier."

Cllr Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development, said:  "Officers are recommending we take a phased approach, which not only means the benefits will be felt sooner, but promises a greater boost overall.

"It also means we can be sure that the barrier itself is delivered on time - something that's of paramount importance for the local community.

"The initial steps we are looking at include creating new or improving existing facilities to increase access to the Haven and the availability of moorings in and around Boston.

"However, the longer term aim remains to hold higher and more stable water levels in Boston, with boats moored throughout Haven and in the town centre to make the area more attractive from the water and alongside it in the town."

The Boston Barrier is expected to start construction in 2017 and be completed by December 2019.