There's a narrow window in weather when work beneath rail tracks can happen
Following devastating floods back in October 2008 when 70 homes in the centre of the village experienced flooding, plans were drawn up by East Devon District Council, Devon County Council and The Environment Agency.
The scheme would see flood water collected from above the village and diverted down a pipe through the village.
The first two phases of the scheme – a new ditch and construction of flood gates, walls and raised drives – have been completed. But phase 3, which involves laying a one metre diameter culvert underneath the railway line, has stalled.
Back in 2017, it was announced by the council that work was ‘moving forward rapidly’, but now, it won’t be until October 2019 when the culvert can be placed under the railway.
Councillors in Feniton at a recent parish council meeting said that the further delays were unacceptable as some residents have been deeply affected by the continued delays and ongoing flooding in the village, and any further delay would also have an impact on flooding streams for revamping the play parks in Feniton.
MP for the area Neil Parish said that he has written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail and raised concerns with the Rail Minister about the delays and the technical difficulties being encountered in Feniton and said he shared their frustration.
Network Rail has given approval for Phase 3 of East Devon District Council’s flood alleviation scheme and a suitable 52 hour window in October 2019 has been identified as when the new culvert can be placed under the railway, which fits in with other works planned by the railway around that time.
An East Devon District Council spokesman said: “The reason behind this timing is that there is only a limited period when the temperature of the railway tracks allows the undertrack crossing to be accessed and work to be safely carried out.
“During warmer weather the thermal stress in the railway tracks is too high for the ballast below it to be disturbed. This is further complicated by the presence of reptiles to one side of the railway crossing, which can only be relocated during warmer weather.
“Network Rail has put together the necessary proposals and programme to complete the detailed design for full technical sign off for Phase 3. However, due to the nature of the in-depth analysis of the temporary and permanent works required, and the reviews required of these, it is anticipated that this will unable to be completed before Easter 2019 after which the ballast cannot be disturbed.
“East Devon is reviewing Network Rail’s proposal at present, and is actively considering how best the last and final phase of the council’s own works can be programmed to fit in with Network Rail’s timings. This includes consideration of whether other sections of the culvert can commence prior to the Phase 3 section.
“The council, together with Network Rail, is keen that the flood alleviation scheme can be completed as soon as is practical in order to protect over 70 homes in the village from flooding.”
Phase 4 will see the installation of the 1050mm diameter pipe. Starting at Metcombe Cottage, the pipe will be installed up to and connected into the railway crossing installed as part of Phase 3.
The pipe will continue north of the railway, across Green lane and into Wells Avenue heading northwards through Warwick Close. The pipe will pass through the corner of the Wainhomes site, into the Parish Council’s play area and head north towards the Youth Centre. It will re-enter the Wainhomes site before travelling north to Station Road and the fields behind Mount View.
A guide to the Flood Alleviation Scheme on the council’s website states that work on phase 4 should have started in Autumn 2016.
Cllr Susie Bond, East Devon’s ward member for Feniton and Buckerell, said: “On behalf of the residents of Feniton, I have to thank the engineers at East Devon District Council for their tenacity in relation to this complex project, which is in equal measure to the resilience of the residents of Feniton.
“I’m particularly pleased that as a council, we are going to look at moving forward with Phase 4, which is the final stage of the project, while Network Rail completes Phase 3.”
The flooding that hit Feniton back in 2008 left the village as “unpassable” and many residents were unable to leave their houses due to the river of floodwater running past their homes. There were also several landslides in the area.
The medieval St Andrew’s Church in Feniton Old Village was left under two feet of water, as were homes in the village centre.
Front gardens of houses were littered with flood -damaged white goods, furniture, books, a caravan and more.