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Minister: floods quango 'not fit for purpose'

The worst floods seen in the South East for decades were "a disaster waiting to happen".

That's the view of riverside residents in Kent who say dredging and river maintenance has ground to a halt under the Environment Agency.

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon agrees with them, describing the Environment Agency as no longer fit for purpose. But the Agency says it does just as good a job as its predecessor the National Rivers Authority. John Ryall spoke to Mr Fallon as well as residents Huw Alban Davies and Roy Newing.

Artificial pond being built to prevent Winchester flooding

Environment Agency crews
Crews are creating an artificial pond to divert excess river water away from Winchester

The Environment Agency is building an artificial pond to help Winchester cope with the exceptionally high levels of water flowing along the River Itchen and into the city.

Crews are using sixty sandbags, each weighing one tonne, to create the holding area which should divert and store flood water away from the city.

The artificial pond should measure 206,000m2 when it is completed Credit: Environment Agency

The pond is being built between the M3 and Easton, upstream of Winchester. By diverting and storing excess water, it should allow rising ground water and water from other streams to drain into the river.

This should reduce risk of flooding to 100 properties including St Bede’s School, the arts and leisure centres.

St Bede's School, Winchester
Flood barriers have been put in place at St Bede's School

The artificial pond is being created in partnership with Hampshire County Council which has made the land available, and the Highways Agency which closed lanes on the M3 to allow a crane to lower the sandbags.

The Environment Agency has said it will be monitoring waters levels closely to ensure there is no increased flood risk to residents in the Easton area.

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Heated exchanges as flood victims told of defences wait

by Sarah Saunders (@SSaundersITV)

"We don't want flood warnings. We want NOT to be flooded." That's the message - loud and clear - to the Environment Agency tonight as it holds a series of heated meetings with flood victims across the south east.

But in the worst affected areas of Kent - residents have been told they might have to wait 20 years or more for desperately needed flood defences. It's the first time the Environment Agency has given people a time frame for major investment - and it's caused uproar.

Tonight there are reports of flooding - and imminent flooding - in many parts of east Kent including Wickhambreaux, Ickham, Barham, Bishopsbourne and Stodmarsh. And there are flood warnings in force on parts of the River Stour, Little Stour and Nailbourne. Sarah Saunders reports.

Beaches face 'unsuitable for swimming' blacklist

by Sarah Saunders (@SSaundersITV)

Some of the country's favourite beaches could be ruled unsuitable for swimming under new European water quality rules.

Walpole Bay Beach in Kent, Hastings Main Beach in Sussex and Southend Jubilee Beach in Essex are among those that have been earmarked 'at risk ' of failing to reach the higher water quality standards that come into force from 2015.

The authorities in Kent, they are looking at ways to avoid the 'unsafe for swimming' blacklist. Sarah Saunders reports.

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Severe flood warning issued for River Stour

Map from the Environment Agency flood warning map showing area most at risk Credit: Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has issued this updated alert regarding the Ilford Bridge Home Park close to the River Stour at Christchurch.

There is significant risk to life. Flooding may be rapid and flood water may be deep and fast flowing. There may be damage to roads. bridges and other utilities in your area. Water levels are likely to remain high for a a longer than normal period as there could be an influence from the high tide.

Call Floodline on 0845 988 1188, select option 1 and enter Quickdial number 166120 to get more information

How the floods are affecting the region today

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David Cameron under pressure on Environment Agency cuts

The Prime Minister was challenged about Environment Agency cuts first on ITV Meridian Credit: Robin Britton

The ITV Meridian region is enduring the worst series of winter storms in more than 20 years, weather experts have said, as the country prepares for even more flooding.

Coastal areas - particularly in southern England - are most at risk as they cope with a combination of unusually high tides and another Atlantic storm today. The PM was questioned about cuts at the Environment Agency on ITV Meridian earlier this week.

When questioned about the Environment Agency's ability to fund flood defences on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron replied: " We're spending £2.3 billion in this four-year period on flood defences which is more than the previous four-year period.

"We have also enabled them to access other sources of money - partnership funding - so I think we're going to see record levels of spending on flood defences and we have guaranteed that right out into 2020 so they can really plan for the future.

Mr Cameron went on: "Huge sympathy to anyone who has had their house flooded. Anyone who has had a house or an office flooded knows it is absolutely dreadful.

"I think the community response has been incredible. I saw for myself how people come together and help and the emergency services have done an absolutely great job.

Evacuated residents can't return home until next week

Video. High winds and rain continue to batter the region, with flood warnings remaining in place in parts of the South. At Iford Bridge Home Park in Dorset, around 100 residents were evacuated from their homes, next to the River Stour.

They have now been told they won't be able to return home, until next week at the earliest.

Juliette Fletcher spoke to resident Martin Sadler, Councillor Lawrence Williams from Bournemouth Borough Council and Chris Bainger from the Environment Agency.

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