Charminster residents meet with MP Oliver Letwin over bridge flooding fears

Dorset Echo

RESIDENTS are hopeful that a positive solution can be found to alleviate flooding in Charminster after a fruitful meeting chaired by West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin.

The politician, fresh from spending the week discussing the national flooding crisis in Westminster, visited the village to hear residents concerns about the impact of a grade two listed bridge over the River Cerne on the neighbouring churchyard and surrounding properties.

The design of the listed bridge has been blamed for the flooding of the grade one listed St Mary’s Church and a number of other properties, some of which are also grade two listed, in recent weeks.

Mr Letwin responded to the concerns of residents by organising a meeting with representatives of the Environment Agency, English Heritage and Dorset County Council as well as villagers. As he arrived for the meeting the river was swollen but it had not yet burst its banks.

Representatives from the Environment Agency said they had looked at various other options to alleviate the flooding issues in the area but, especially with the evidence the recent flooding had provided, they were of the opinion that redesigning the bridge was the best solution.

Catherine Farrugia from the agency said: “I very strongly think that the best thing to do is to actually increase the conveyance of the river and the best way to do that is to rebuild the bridge with bigger arches.”

Local resident Gwen Yarker said that she had done research to show that the bridge had been substantially renovated in around 1993 and 100 years prior to that, with flooding an issue.

Mr Letwin said: “We have actually been at this for 120 years.”

• CHARLES Joly’s 93-year-old mother lives at Bridge Cottage right by the river.

He said she has not been able to live at the property for several weeks because of the threat of flooding and all her furniture has been raised off the ground.

Mr Joly said: “At the moment because it’s such a threat and she’s 93 we can’t let her live there and she’s had to move.”