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Multi-million pound flood scheme may be built to protect Leatherhead
Updated 9:24am Thursday 17th July 2014 in News
Indra Starnes, her husband and pets are rescued from Thorncroft Drive, Leatherhead, on Christmas Eve
A multi-million pound flood alleviation scheme may be built to protect Leatherhead it has emerged - but nothing will be in place before this winter.
In December and January floods wrecked havoc in the town where homes, a crematorium, a football ground, a fire station and a water pumping station were all inundated.
The Environment Agency (EA) is now carrying out a £100,000-investigation into the best ways to prevent flooding along the River Mole between Horley and Cobham.
Flooding at a pumping station in Leatherhead on Christmas Eve
Leatherhead and Middle Mole Flood Alleviation Scheme is being designed to protect up to 450 at-risk homes and a report on different options will be ready next April.
The EA has, however, already improved its flood warning system for parts of the River Mole and its ability to forecast floods at Leatherhead.
Flooding at Leatherhead fire station on Christmas Eve
But Indra Starnes, who was rescued by boat with her husband, dogs and cats from Thorncroft Drive, said they will move back home in October and are already fearful about the coming winter.
Mrs Starnes said: "It’s a bit scary to be honest. The first rainstorm we have, I don’t think we are going to sleep. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we are not going to have the same experience again."
A "finger in the wind" estimate by Sarah Smith, flood risk management team leader at the EA, is that the flood alleviation scheme could cost between £3m and £5m and work could start in 2016 or 2017 at the earliest.
Ms Smith said: "We are looking at a number of different options. I can’t tell you exactly what we will do at this stage. It would be things like flood storage, walls and embankments."
She said they are identifying lessons to be learnt for a report due to be published in coming months, adding: "The last winter we just had was absolutely exceptional. It was the worst winter for 250 years."
She estimated that 70 homes were flooded in Fetcham and between 10 and 15 in Leatherhead.
County Councillor Tim Hall, who represents Leatherhead and Fetcham East, said they will start up a community-based flood forum at a meeting on July 29.
Flooding at Randalls Park Crematorium
Coun Hall said: "That’s to make sure that we have not forgotten anything and that all the different issues are being picked up."
He said the Leatherhead town bridge was being repaired this month, Thames Water had sorted out drainage and sewer problems and work had been done on highways.
But he said: "With river flooding it’s going to take longer to find out where the water came from and what we can do. We are correcting all the small things, but why did flooding hit in the way it did? Nobody knows."
Flooding at Leatherhead Football Club's ground
A Leatherhead fire station spokesman said their IT system had been moved higher up to protect it from flood water and further flood prevention measures are being looked at.
A spokesperson for Randalls Park Crematorium, in Randalls Road, said it is consulting specialist flood defence companies and the EA to see what can be done to prevent future flooding.
He said: "We have now received detailed estimated costs on various solutions and locations for flood barriers within our grounds. It is clear that this is going to be a very expensive project."
Hubert Carr, chairman of Leatherhead Residents’ Association, said he may take part in the flood forum to spread warnings and respond to flooding in the community.
Flooding in Leatherhead on Christmas Eve
Mr Carr said: "I don’t think we will be caught in quite the same way that we were last time. A lot of people had been woken up by it and understand the risks.
"But whether much has been done physically, I don’t know."
The executive of Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) is due to consider the council's flooding review in September.
A council spokesman said they are helping flood victims and forums, adding: "Our thoughts still very much remain with all those who have been affected by the flooding."