Major engineering works designed to increase the flood resilience of Keswick are scheduled to start next week, on 2 September.
Cumbria County Council, along with the Environment Agency and Keswick Flood Action Group are investing approximately £2m in the works, which will see the construction of a new flood storage basin at Springs Field, and a new pumping station underneath Penrith Road, which will discharge in to the River Greta.
Improvements will also be made to the drainage to help the run-off of surface water in the ‘Castlehead Drain’ between the basin and pumping station. As Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) for Cumbria, the county council is responsible for the management of surface water flood risk. The Penrith Road area of Keswick forms one of the greatest areas of surface water flood risk in the county in terms of scale, frequency and impact on the local community.
Following feedback from the local community, construction work is not starting until the end of the school summer holidays to minimise disruption and avoid the peak season and busy bank holiday weekend.
The Pumping Station element of the project is a very challenging engineering activity and requires a full road closure of Penrith Road approximately at the end of Myers Street for up to 14 weeks from 2 September 2019. The site compound and work at Springs Field are being set up during this week but work on Penrith Road itself won’t begin until 2 September.
Whilst the Council recognises that any road closure is inconvenient, they have agreed with the contractor (VBA) to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum and that access is maintained for local residents and businesses where possible. VBA will be working a minimum of six days a week to complete the work as quickly as they can with an aim to get the road re-opened as early as possible.
A diversion will be in place which will be clearly indicated and will be signposting traffic bound for the west of the town via the Crosthwaite roundabout.
Representatives from contractor VBA will be in Keswick Library every Tuesday between 10am and 12noon throughout the duration of the work to answer any questions and provide progress updates to residents, businesses and visitors.
Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “I am delighted to see that this important scheme is now underway. A lot of detailed background work has been carried out behind the scenes to understand how and why flooding tends to be more devastating in the Penrith Road area of Keswick than other parts of the county.
“This is a significant investment managed by the county council of up to £2m and will protect hundreds of properties from future flooding events, and stop the extent of surface water from disrupting the surrounding highways and local businesses.
“Whilst there is never going to be a ‘good’ time to have a road closure in Keswick, we’re somewhat limited as to when this work can be carried out trying to balance the requirements of the town with the need to alleviate the effects of flooding to the Penrith Road community. I’d like to thank residents, businesses and visitors for their cooperation and understanding in advance. The benefits of this scheme in protecting properties from future flooding far outweigh the impact of a temporary road closure.”
Lynne Jones, Chair of Keswick Flood Action Group added: “After the floods of 2005, we flagged up that there was an early surface water flood risk in the Penrith Road area long before the River Greta caused flooding at that point. The construction of the river defenses back in 2012 resulted in the potential for even deeper ponding in the Penrith Road area long before the river over-topped. Sadly this proved to be the case during Storm Desmond in December 2015.
“Whilst we are also very sorry for the inconvenience to locals and visitors over the coming weeks we are very relieved that the scheme is, at last, going ahead.”
A dedicated webpage, https://www.cumbria.gov.uk/keswickflooddefence has been set up on the county council’s website which will be updated throughout the project and regular updates will be posted on social media.