Flood defence hopes rise for historic border village
A flood-hit border village that boasts a castle and Grade I-listed church could be one step closer to proper river defences, after homes and the local pub were underwater three times in 14 months.
Parts of Skenfrith beside the River Monnow suffered significant flood damage after heavy rainfall in October 2019 and Storm Dennis in February 2020.
The Bell pub stored furniture and stock in shipping containers in the car park after the first flood, only to see them float away four months later, one landing in a field some three miles downriver.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) outlined various options for flood prevention measures to a public meeting at Skenfrith Village Hall in March.
And funding has now been secured from the Welsh Government to develop an outline business case into the viability of a possible scheme for the village, which sits on the Wales/England border.
NRW has warned, though, that there is “potential for delay” in starting work due to a shortage of project managers.
Monmouth MP David Davies, who has been liaising with village representatives to lobby for better flood defences, welcomed the funding as “good news” in a “long process”.
“Skenfrith residents face an anxious few winters knowing they may well be flooded again, so it is vital progress is made on delivering this strategic outline case,” he said.
“Due to market pressures and shortages, I am told recruitment of project managers over the last 12 months has been very difficult.
“NRW is currently running a recruitment campaign, which will hopefully prove fruitful to enable the Skenfrith work to progress in the autumn.
“There is the potential for delay if the required project managers cannot be recruited but senior NRW officials have assured me they will do everything they can to prevent this.
“I will keep up the pressure on NRW and look forward to meeting residents again shortly.”
Property level protection or some form of wall/embankment around the village are possible schemes being considered.
The strategic outline case could take up to 12 months to whittle down the options and would involve discussions with heritage monuments body Cadw because of the 900-year-old Skenfrith Castle.
It could then take another year to develop a final business case and six months to secure a contractor to carry out the work.
“If all went to plan, we are looking at a minimum of two to three years for a scheme to come to fruition - providing each business case passes strict criteria and funding is in place,” added Mr Davies.
“It is a long and protracted process, but we have taken another important step forward in the right direction.”
A flood-proof wall to protect an 18th century listed cottage between the village’s Grade I-listed St Bridget’s Church and castle was backed by county council planners at the end of 2020.
The Old Shop in Skenfrith’s Malthouse Road was among several properties flooded when the Monnow burst its banks in the historic village on the English and Welsh border.
Several homes had to mop out twice, while the award-winning 17th coaching inn The Bell was forced to close for refurbishments and then lost furniture and stock when the river rose again and swept away its five-tonne storage containers from the car park.
The pub owners were forced to look on helplessly from upstairs as the containers drifted across the road and down the raging river.
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