The Cockermouth Flood Alleviation Scheme, which was constructed by VolkerStevin for the Environment Agency, has been officially unveiled at a ceremony.
Following the damaging effects of flooding in the area in 2009, the new flood defences will reduce the risk of future flooding to the area, helping to protect local businesses and over 360 homes in Cockermouth.
The local community was encouraged to come along and see for themselves the 120-metre long innovative self-closing flood barriers, which rise automatically when the river is in flood. This innovative approach helps to retain views of the river throughout the rest of the year, as the barriers only close when required.
The ceremony involved the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the defences at Rubbybanks Road. The plaque cites a poem crafted by nine-year-old Molly Palmer, of Bridekirk Dovenby C.E. Primary School, who won an Environment Agency poetry competition around Cockermouth's flooding experiences.
The poem read:
"After the storm had passed and water had gone, the sun came out and sadness floated away. After the years of hard work and sunshine Cockermouth was a town again."
Molly Palmer, aged nine.
Adam Walsh, Environment Agency Flood Team Leader, said: "We are delighted that Cockermouth's flood defences are now complete, reducing the risk of flooding to 361 local homes and 55 businesses. It also marks the first time a self-closing flood barrier has been used to protect a community in the UK."
Stuart Newby, contracts manager at VolkerStevin, said: "It was great to see so many of the local community come out to support the opening of this much needed scheme, which VolkerStevin has been privileged to be part of. By working closely with the Environment Agency and the local community we have been able to use new and innovative methods of flood defence, which will ensure the scenery of the area has not been compromised."
The project involved the construction of 190m of new flood defences, built with a reinforced concrete base and masonry/brick clad walls. As well as this, 515m of existing flood defence walls were raised and a 180m long clay cored earth embankment was built.
The scheme also includes a 120m self-closing flood barrier (the first time this barrier has been used in this application in the UK), flood proofing to existing properties, installation of eight flood gates, and 65metres of glass viewing panels, all constructed within and on top of the new walls. The scheme also includes ramps to facilitate high level movement along embankments and access and egress to the watercourse for future maintenance.
In 2012 the project team was awarded a Community Award at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North West Awards for actively working to support the local community in Cockermouth throughout the construction of the flood defences.