FLOOD defences costing in excess of £1 million could be installed in Bradford on Avon to provide a long-term solution to the town’s problems when the River Avon water levels rise.

The Environment Agency is working in partnership with Wiltshire Council, Bradford on Avon Town Council, Community Emergency Volunteers and other public sector partners to develop a flood alleviation scheme for the town.

An outline scheme developed by the agency includes measures that minimise the visual impact to the local community. The scheme is likely to consist of flood gates and underground pumping stations.

It involves installing ‘unobtrusive’ hinged gates at both sides of the Town Bridge as well as at least four large underground tanks with pumps to ‘hold’ flood water until river levels subside and it can be pumped back into the river.

The tanks would be located on both sides of the town bridge, most likely in the Bullpit area, in Church Street, in Westbury Gardens or the St Margaret’s car park, and close to the library.

Cllr Laurie Brown said: “The mobile flood defences are doing an absolutely fantastic job for the town at times like this but we are working in partnership with the Environment Agency and other partners to provide a long-term more robust solution.

“The plan would involve installing gates and holding tanks with pumps and some drainage works to keep the water where it is not going to cause any problems to residents and retailers.”

The Environment Agency has appointed a project manager to lead the plan through the development of a detailed design and to ensure a viable and affordable flood alleviation scheme is progressed. A public exhibition this summer will share details of their proposals.

It is expected that the scheme will cost in excess of £1 million to construct and maintain and will be funded by central government and partnership contributions from a variety of sources.

If the money is found this year, and if the scheme goes ahead, it is likely to cause massive disruption while the gates, the tanks and the drainage works are being put into place.

The Environment Agency put up mobile flood defence barriers on the Bullpit side of the River Avon last week. The temporary barriers will remain in place until the water levels subside.

Their deployment is part of the interim emergency plans developed while a permanent flood alleviation scheme is put into place.

The emergency plans followed the severe flooding in December 2013 when town centre homes, shops and offices were flooded out and Bradford on Avon was cut in two because the main road was impassable.

In the meantime, the town council has paid tribute to the CEV members, saying: “We are so grateful to all the Community Emergency Volunteers for their hard work in helping to keep the town safe.”

The volunteers were put on a 72-hour stand-by last week as flood waters rose and the River Avon flowing through the town was in danger of bursting its banks.