Plans for a £1 million scheme to alleviate flooding in Bradford on Avon appear to have stalled because there is insufficient government and partnership funding available.

The scheme would have seen flood gates and four huge underground ‘holding tanks’ being installed in and around the town centre to combat annual flooding.

The plans were outlined around six years ago before the Environment Agency decided to last year withdraw its temporary flood defence barrier at the Bull Pit next to the River Avon because of safety issues.

The decision has left the town’s businesses and residents to fend for themselves during flooding incidents with some unable to stem the rapidly rising water levels seen last week.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The decision to withdraw use of temporary barriers in Bradford on Avon was taken in full consultation with the town council and residents and businesses in affected properties.  

“Regarding a permanent solution for the community, the previous work the Environment Agency undertook was paused due to a significant funding gap.

“We are in the process of reviewing and identifying whether there are any other opportunities to deliver a flood alleviation scheme for Bradford on Avon.

“We will communicate the findings of the review with the community, but any future flood alleviation scheme will be subject to the partnership funding rules set out by government.”

In 2018, the agency outlined plans for a £1m flood alleviation scheme likely to consist of floodgates and underground pumping stations.

The agency announced it was 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 and put on public display in the summer of 2019 included measures that would minimise the visual impact to the local community.

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 Bull Pit area, in Church Street, in Westbury Gardens or the St Margaret’s car park, and close to the town library.

But since the public exhibition at St Margaret’s Hall, local residents and the town’s retail businesses say they have heard nothing, despite several incidents of annual flooding over the past five years.

A Bradford on Avon Town Council spokesperson said: “The town council has set aside £30,000 in an earmarked reserve as a contribution towards any flood defence scheme in partnership with the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council.

“We are, at every available opportunity, discussing with the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council the issue of flooding and potential prevention schemes.

“We are keen for this to be resolved but unfortunately, we are in the hands of the Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council, who are responsible for dealing with flooding.”

The agency and the council were criticised this week for not supplying sandbags to help prevent local retail shop premises and residents’ homes from being impacted by flooding.

In response, the agency said: “The Environment Agency and Wiltshire Council do not supply sandbags as a matter of course, and individuals who feel they would be useful should provide their own in readiness to prepare for high water levels.”

Cllr Caroline Thomas, Wiltshire Council's cabinet member for transport and flooding, said: “Sandbags would not have been effective in preventing the large-scale river flooding that affected business premises in Bradford on Avon.

"Where properties are subject to regular flooding, we encourage property owners to take proactive steps to reduce the risk of flooding before a flooding event and make a flood plan to address their type of flooding."