A Dutch dam, put in place as part of Weston-super- Mare’s multi-million-pound sea defences, may be removed – because it takes contractors up to four hours to erect.
The dam, which was installed at Knightstone Island five years ago as part of the £29 million scheme to improve the resort’s sea defences, may be taken out and replaced with a flood gate.
The move follows concern that the dam takes up to four hours to deploy when warnings of storms or high seas are received by the council.
The dam is 75ft long and is made up of 30 aluminium, interlocking sections. It is put up when required by council contractors.
Employing the contractors to put together the dam costs the authority an estimated £20,000 a year.
The authority puts up the dam each time a tide of up to 12m or more is expected, or following warnings of severe weather.
Replacing the dam with new flood gates – similar to what are in place further up the seafront – would reduce the deployment time from four hours to less than an hour.
The estimated cost of replacing the dam with flood gates is £250,000 – with the council looking to borrow the cash over a number of years to get the work done.
The work would involve narrowing the 75ft gap where the dam currently sits and installing the flood gates.
The gap would still be large enough for boat owners and water sports fans to get their vehicles through and onto the water.
Currently there are 10 flood gates, as well as the dam, included in the Weston sea defence scheme.
Councillor Peter Bryant, executive member for environment, said: “It makes sense that we have a gate which we can close within minutes.
“The dam works fine but the job of putting it up is a long and laborious one which takes a considerable amount of time.
“We do not always have this time if we get sudden warnings of bad weather or storm surges.
“It costs the authority around £20,000 a year to pay its contractors to put up the dam each time it is needed. It is viable if the costs of putting it up each year cover the costs of any loan taken.”
The sea defences have seen the sea wall between Marine Lake and Royal Sands upgraded and the promenade given a makeover.
The previous sea defences, including a sea wall dating back 120 years, provided a one-in-five-year standard of protection, meaning there was a 20 per cent chance of flooding each year.
The new defences, funded by DEFRA, the South West Regional Development Agency, Wessex Regional Flood Committee and North Somerset Council, will help protect 4,500 properties in the resort from flooding. But last year, businesses along the seafront were still flooded – because the council failed to close the flood gates.
Costings for replacing the dam are being investigated by council officers. The matter will then go back before the authority’s executive.
Nick Yates, North Somerset Council spokesman, said: “There are some operational issues with the Dutch dam, including the time taken and costs involved in deploying it, as well as disruption to residents and businesses.
"Therefore, we are looking at a number of ways to further improve the current operation.”