HOUSEBOAT owners are waged in a bitter dispute with the Environment Agency over the Adur tidal walls scheme.
Former chairman of the Adur Houseboat Association Mike Wooldridge lives at Riverbank. He said some members of the community were ‘unhappy’ the Environment Agency was not raising the footpath as part of the project.
“By now, many Shoreham residents will be aware that in order to cope with rising sea levels, the Adur flood defences will have to be raised by around half a meter,” said Mike.
“However, the Environment Agency proposes to build an 850mm high wall along the south edge of the tow path, leaving the people living on houseboats stuck on the flooded side. When the estuary water level exceeds the height of the path houseboat residents will have to stay on their boats or wade through up to half a meter of potentially choppy water to escape.
“Not unreasonably, owners voted for the path to be raised – just by the modest 170mm on offer from Environment Agency.
“The Environment Agency has listened to other opinions including those of local low-lying house owners who, although standing to benefit enormously from the new defences, are objecting to the prospect of ‘being overlooked’ from a slightly raised path.
“The houseboat community is very unhappy, and is seeking support from elected councillors and our MP to try and get our towpath raised and safer.”
The Environment Agency said it aimed to reduce the flood risk to more than 2,300 homes and 169 commercial properties across Shoreham and east Lancing.
A spokesman said: “We understand some people will be disappointed we will not be raising the height of the footpath. We carefully considered this decision. We are working in partnership with West Sussex County Council and Adur District Council to design and build the Shoreham Adur Tidal Walls Scheme.
“Following extensive consultation with the communities concerned, including public exhibitions, the team is developing the design with the intention of submitting a planning application in August.
When the estuary water level exceeds the height of the path houseboat residents will have to stay on their boats or wade through up to half a meter of potentially choppy water to escape
“Additional funding from the Coast to Capital local enterprise partnership means we can start building in early 2016. We would like to thank those who attended our events. Their feedback has been essential in shaping the future of this scheme.”