A SEVEN-year-long battle to get permanent flood defences installed at Beales Corner in Bewdley has taken a step forward after Wyre Forest District Council agreed that working up a business case for the defences should be made an "absolute priority".

An investigation into the flooding caused by Storms Ciara and Dennis in February concluded that "earlier deployment [of barriers] on Severnside South could have saved a number of properties from flooding" and recommended that a letter be sent to Environment Agency indicating strong support for permanent flood barriers at Beales Corner.

An enquiry into the floods was launched by the council in June and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard from a handful of the 300 residents and business owners affected by the floods and considered evidence from the Environment Agency, emergency services and local councils.

A report from the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee commended the multi-agency response to the floods, but said "as there was a clear indication of adverse weather conditions, which had led to the deployment of barriers on Severnside North, earlier deployment on Severnside South could have saved a number of properties from flooding".

The committee also recognised that the cost benefit analysis previously used for assessing the need for flood barriers at Beales Corner to protect 19 houses was no longer applicable, as more than 70 properties were evacuated.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Homes had to be evacuated. Photo by PAHomes had to be evacuated. Photo by PA

The report reads: "The committee heard some very persuasive, compelling and heartfelt submissions about the devastating impact that the floods had caused.

"It had brought to life the reality that it wasn’t just water, it was dirty flood water contaminated with sewage and diesel, that has had a long-term impact on residents and brought a lot of inconvenience, misery and displeasure to their lives."

The report noted that the Environment Agency is now considering the case for a permanent flood scheme for Beale’s Corner and is aiming to complete the initial review by the end of the summer.

Speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday, September 23, Councillor Marcus Hart, who led the investigation, said: "Our absolute priority, as you can see from the report, is that a business case be worked up for permanent flood barriers at Beales Corner and that we send a letter to the Environment Agency expressing our strong support."

Councillors unanimously supported the committee's recommendations, and agreed to ask the Environment Agency for a review into its barrier deployment procedure at Bewdley, taking into account the possibility of extreme local rainfall events as seen in February.

Councillor Fran Oborski said: "As a member of the Worcestershire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) board, I will be pushing the case for permanent flood barriers at Beales Corner.

"Tenbury’s flood barriers have already been approved but money is available for Bewdley - we’re just waiting for a full engineering and finance report so we know what the costs will be.

"Bewdley will be getting flood barriers on the Wribbenhall side, rest assured."