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Cookham floods made worse because of ‘unusual’ Environment Agency errors

Cookham’s flooding problems have been made worse because of an ‘unusual’ error in flood defences, according to the Environment Agency.

Storm Henk caused major flooding across the Thames Valley – dubbed the worst for a decade – but parts of Cookham saw water flow worse than even 2014.

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from the agency discussed historic problems with flood defences in the area.

Keith Panter, a Strande Lane resident, said at the meeting: “This one [the 2024 flood] was interesting as Storm Henk was an act of God obviously, but going through all the data – river levels, lock levels and everything – something happened here.

“Because all the lock levels show that they weren’t quite as bad as 2014 except the water between Marlow and Cookham which was held back – it would appear – obstructed somehow or other.”

Barbara Andrea, from the Environment Agency acknowledged parts of Cookham had seen bigger problems with flood water than a decade ago.

“I agree with you,” she said. “And we are looking into this now as those levels to the west and to the south – Lightlands Lane and Strande Lane, particularly Strande Lane.

“Those levels - we know it from our guys operating the pumps – we had an awful lot more water under our defences.

“The pressure of water, the loading of water coming down that route was more than in 2014 from what we see on the ground.”

The Jubilee River, built by the Environment Agency, opened in 2002 and is designed to protect properties in Maidenhead and Cookham.

However, Mr Panter said the agency had confirmed it made a mistake when planning its flood defences for the area and had agreed to fix it.

A new bund – an artificial flood barrier – was created in Marsh Meadow.

“Two or three options came up and the agency chose the cheapest one which was to put this bund in,” said Mr Panter.

“We said we really don’t think that’s going to help.”

Joe Cutherbertson, of the Environment Agency, said: “When we build flood alleviation schemes they go through the planning process themselves and as part of that we have to prove that they won’t make flooding worse elsewhere.

“We did have a situation here [Cookham] where, actually after it was built, we established that it had and we had to take some corrective action which you’ve highlighted there.

“I wanted to stress that that’s a really unusual situation.

“I’m aware of a handful of those that have happened in the country so it’s not standard for us to develop a scheme like that.”