Major fundraising drive launched to complete the flood defences in Thatcham

MP Richard Benyon endorses plans for broad community involvement to protect hundreds of homes

A campaign was launched today to raise over £100,000 in the next three months and £200,000 in total to protect hundreds of homes and businesses in Thatcham from future flooding.

MP Richard Benyon joined members of the Thatcham Flood Forum (TFF) and local dignitaries at the site of the proposed flood retention basin in Dunston Park. The Forum has been campaigning to protect the town from a repeat of the flooding in 2007 which devastated over 1,100 homes and businesses.

The ‘Keep Floods from Thatcham’s Doors’ campaign needs to raise enough money to build the last two Flood Alleviation Schemes (FAS) designed to protect East and South East Thatcham and complete the town’s flood defences. These would be located above Dunston Park estate and above the Kennet Lea and Kennet Heath estates.

The flood schemes cost around £1m each to build and the Forum needs to raise upwards of £200,000 in donations and grants in order to unlock the majority of funding from DEFRA and the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee funds. Once sufficient funds for a local contribution are raised, West Berkshire Council will be in a position to apply to the Environment Agency and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee for the major proportion of the funding.

The Dunston Park FAS will be capable of storing 35,000 cubic metres of surface flood water whilst the SE Thatcham FAS will temporarily impound up to 50,000 cubic metres and connect to the Piper’s Way basin. These will complement the first basin built at Cold Ash Hill last year and the second basin already funded and due to be constructed later this year at Tull Way.

If the funds can be raised, the remaining schemes are targeted for completion by the end of 2017, hopefully protecting the town from any future freak weather and devastating floods.

Richard Benyon said: “I well remember the desperate circumstances that so many residents experienced in 2007 and am aware of how difficult it was for many of them living in temporary accommodation for extended periods. In my time as Floods Minister, I took a particular interest in the early stages of the Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) for Thatcham and fully endorse the steps that the Flood Forum is taking to ensure that this does not become the forgotten flood.”

Greenham Common Trust has committed £50,000 in match funding to the project. So for every £10 donated by the public or local businesses to the Forum’s application on www.findmeagrant.org/wberks the Trust will give another £10 and will apply for Gift Aid if donors are eligible making their donation worth £22.50. Thatcham Town Council has granted the campaign £20,000 and West Berkshire Members Community Bid Fund has pledged £10,000 towards each scheme, £20,000 in total.

Brian Woodham, TFF Funding Committee Chairman said: “We are delighted with this early expression of support and confident that the people of Thatcham, businesses in the town and other grant giving bodies will rally round to make Thatcham safe. We particularly want to thank Greenham Common Trust for the leadership and support they have given the campaign.”

The local councils all played an important role in supporting the first two basins; Thatcham Town Council invested £40,000, Cold Ash Parish Council £5,000 and West Berkshire Council provided match funding, engineering project management and long term maintenance commitments.

Emergency planning lead Cllr Garth Simpson (Con. Cold Ash) added: “We know how relieved the residents of North Thatcham and Lower Cold Ash Hill are with the commissioning of the first retention basin. When all four schemes are complete it is estimated that flood water equivalent to some forty Olympic swimming pools will be temporarily held back from entering the town’s sewerage system.”

“I would especially like to thank the flood engineers at West Berkshire Council for their sterling efforts over the last seven years.”

If you want to make a donation to the Forum’s application please visit www.findmeagrant.org and type ‘WB11089’ into the keyword search in Live Applications and click ‘Make a Donation’.

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