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Boston Barrier: Please don't delay this important project

Message from Boston Borough Council Leader, Cllr Peter Bedford

As we are all making preparations for lovely Christmas and New Year celebrations I am sure most will turn their thoughts to the plight and misery of those afflicted by flooding.

Two years ago it was the turn of thousands in Boston. Scenes on the TV of flooding this year in Cumbria must have brought back memories of those dark days.

We know from bitter experience that there is no quick fix after flooding. In Boston it has taken two full years and millions of pounds for many to return to anything like normal.

The flood waters in Cumbria hung around. In Boston on the stormy night of December 5, 2013, it was quick and vicious. By the next day much of the tidal flood water had gone from the streets. But the damage inside homes and businesses which had been done in those fleeting hours would take months and months to put right.

So the last thing we need now is anything which puts at risk the construction of Boston's flood protection barrier in the quickest time possible.

Yes, in an ideal world, with endless finance, we would have all the bells and whistles. But the priority, now and here and in these cash-strapped times, is whatever we can get which works to protect against flooding as soon as we can get it.

I have been disturbed to read that some local unelected politicians have gone into print to ask, at this late stage, for an in-depth public inquiry into the finer detail of the barrier project.

I have every confidence in the professionals from the Environment Agency who tell us that the £92.3 million tidal flood alleviation barrier is the best it can be for Boston at this time; an assurance sought by our MP from ministers and an assurance given. Since the 2013 flood the project, which is massively complex, has been fast tracked and is on target to be completed by December 2019.

It may not now include all the extras, such as keeping the water level in The Haven through town constant, but I think that would be cold comfort for anyone whose home is flooded after December 2019 because the barrier has not been built because of delays caused by a public inquiry. Flood protection, or a pretty river scene? I know which I'd sooner have.

This is not to say that those bells and whistles cannot be provided at some later stage, and I will do my best for Boston, as I have always done. But we have to be realistic about the situation we are in today. The priority of the barrier had always been, and is now even more so, all about flood protection.

The facts are that the barrier will provide flood protection to 20,000 properties over the next 100 years in Boston. The barrier, had it been in position in 2013 would have prevented that flood. The barrier will give among the best protection from tidal flooding of anywhere in the country. Low spots in the Haven banks will be raised to afford more protection.

Flooding can happen anytime. God forbid that we should have a repeat of 2013 before 2019. God forbid that we should have a repeat in 2019 and the barrier is not in place because of avoidable delays.

Nature will not wait for politicians. And we shouldn't wait a second longer than is necessary for flood protection for Bostonians. I am sure those poor people in Cumbria would agree.

See the latest animation for the Boston Barrier in more detail than ever before