Alarm sounded over site flood repairs

Maintenance teams unable to repair and renovate flood-damaged areas because of a lack of money, parks leaders warn.

Christchurch: park areas near River Avon and Stour hit by flooding
Christchurch: park areas near River Avon and Stour hit by flooding

Maintenance teams will be unable to repair and renovate waterlogged and wind-lashed parks, sports pitches and other landscapes because they are so starved of cash, parks leaders have warned.

They spoke out as the Environment Agency issued hundreds of flood warnings and alerts.

Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "Weather extremes are getting worse yet budgets are designed to deal with the commonplace. Reduced cash pots for winter work mean a minimum number of staff will have to tackle an enormous amount of work in a short time. They will not be able to cope.

"Most parks departments just don't have the people with the capability and equipment to deal with problems quickly, and at this time of year we are at the end of our budget cycle so there's no money. However, a few will show what combining good technical and management expertise can achieve.

Parks consultant Peter Wilkinson added: "There must be people starting to count costs as water recedes. Seafront gardens in Aberystwyth were hammered and the bandstand was almost on the beach. The council is speaking to the Welsh Assembly for help with capital repairs."

Christchurch Borough Council has seen park areas near the River Avon and Stour flooded as far as 100m from the banks with only the tops of benches visible, according to open spaces and countryside manager Clive Sinden.

"We won't know what we will have to do or the costs involved until the floods subside," he said. "Cash will be made available from a contingency fund if needed but repairing tree damage could blow the budget. Many have waterlogged roots, which means they can just keel over.

"We have highlighted the problems and our finance people are fully aware that we will go into overspend," said Sinden, whose annual parks budget is around £650,000. "We are gathering more information on the damage. It won't be hundreds of thousands but will be thousands."

Impact on sports

"Local authorities are cutting back on maintenance and few if any pitches are insured so the recent bad weather could be pretty devastating. I can't see open spaces departments abandoning or closing down pitches - there would be such a stooshie from sports interests. But I can seen winter sports shifting seasons to summer. Many junior football leagues are already moving playing seasons from March to November. The 80-20 rule applies to these kinds of sports pitches - 80 per cent of the damage is done during 20 per cent of the year."

Kit Campbell, sport and recreation consultant, Kit Campbell Associates

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