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Flood Alleviation Scheme is Guildford’s ‘Biggest Opportunity Since 1900’

Published on: 8 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 9 Apr, 2024

The floods in Guildford on Christmas Day, 2013.

By Chris Caulfield

local democracy reporter

Guildford has been given the “biggest opportunity” to transform itself in a century.

The Environment Agency is looking into an expanded flood prevention scheme that would save homes and businesses from rising waters – and open up previously unusable town-centre land for new housing.

Supporters say the upshot of this could be huge.

Councils have to identify land for housing in order to meet Government set targets, but Guildford Borough Council had to  disregard 50 sites recently because they were subject to flooding – 30 of which were in the town centre, the Local Democracy Reporting Service was told.

If the expanded flood alleviation scheme goes ahead it would instantly increase the amount of land in the town and in a swoop take pressure off green belt villages.

Former councillor John Rigg said that the town has been affected by floods for almost 100 years and that it would only get worse if nothing was done.

A RNLI lifeboat in Guildford High Street during the 1968 floods. Click on all pictures to enlarge in a new window.

He said: “The Environment Agency’s planning period anticipates a 72 per cent increase in rainfall in the Guildford area.

“Not steady rain, big downpours.”

He said the problem was compounded as towns upstream – for example in Waverley – pressed on with their own developments.

John Rigg

Mr Rigg said: “When the Government said Guildford had to deliver 10,000 homes, they had to all go in the green belt and the villages, because nobody got the flooding scheme underway and released the brownfield sites.

“When Guildford was looking at land for development as part of its Local Plan, there were 50 sites that had to be disregarded because they were subject to flooding, 30 of them in the town centre.”

Among those are the Millmead and Millbrook car parks.

He said: “We have got to get the flood alleviation plan adopted.

“The EA has said there is £7 billion allocated to areas that deliver economics and social benefits.

“This ticks all the boxes. It’s an important town, it’s a county town and it needs homes and businesses.

“The previous scheme was a minimum, just to stop a couple of streets flooding, but this does it properly, it frees up brownfield sites.

“It’s the biggest opportunity for Guildford since about 1900.

“Last week, by the cinema it flooded, it was up to people’s knees. As far as this town is concerned, they need to wake up.”

A view looking over the flooded Millmead area in 1900. Picture from the Surrey Times’s souvenir supplement. David Rose collection.

Guildford has a long history of flooding from the River Wey, and the Environment Agency, working with the borough council and Surrey County Council, are looking to reduce the high level of flood risk to the town centre.

The project is still in its appraisal stage, but the EA has confirmed it is looking to create a larger protection zone than initial plans from 2018.

It expects to take up to three years to finalise the scheme as it undertakes assessments, surveys and public engagement – the first of which takes place at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on Thursday, April 18, from 2pm to 7pm.

See: Notice -ublic Information Event on the Flood Alleviation Scheme – April 18

Jon Mansbridge, Guildford Flood Alleviation Scheme project director at the Environment Agency, said: “The feedback we gather from communities during our engagement is really valuable in helping to inform the preferred option.”

He added: “The flood defences will be visually integrated into existing and regenerated areas of the river corridor, reducing flood risk to even more of the town centre.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Cllr Joss Bigmore, former co-leader of Guildford Borough Council, said: “Finally the Environment Agency is supporting the council by backing a flood alleviation scheme.

“We’ve been patient, nobody has the money to do these things, and it’s positive that we are at the top of the queue.

“Hopefully we can come up with a comprehensive solution and hopefully we can eradicate the risk of flooding for the centre of Guildford for the next century.”

He added: “For existing residents it very important – and if there is a solution it will unlock a lot of regeneration opportunities on former flood risk areas.”

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Responses to Flood Alleviation Scheme is Guildford’s ‘Biggest Opportunity Since 1900’

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    April 8, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    On my website in “Keep and Share” document of September 25 2020, I commented on the possibilities of creating reservoirs to store flood waters. I quote – “There is concern about flooding in this area of Bedford Road. I believe Environment Agency is looking into ways of dealing with this. Barriers along the river and upstream flood alleviation schemes are being explored by the EA. It may be possible to create reservoirs in the flood plains and control the flow using renewable energy for pumping etc. The reservoirs could be turned into leisure areas for boating with restaurants and gardens on the islands inside them.”

    Please have a look at Eco Park in Kolkata by searching for New_Town_Eco_Park and also Kolkata-Eco-Park

    Maybe there are businesses out there that would explore the possibilities. The Environment Agency at that time were not progressing such a scheme due to lack of funding. Recently Guildford Borough Council’s consultant has proposed lowering the flood plains upstream to create storage of flood water. However, such reservoirs would not be able to generate revenue like proper reservoirs (with pumping facilities to discharge water back to the river) incorporating boating, garden and restaurants etc.

  2. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    April 10, 2024 at 9:11 am

    Bibhas suggestion tallies with my idea of digging trenches within the flood plains adjacent to the River Wey such as in Shalford and Peasmarsh. These not only enabled more floodwater to be held back when needed but create a positive environment for wildlife. A boating reservoir is also ideal for creating a leisure facility and adding to economic opportunities.

    Where is the vision for a better Guildford?

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