CONSTRUCTION work on 114 metres of flood defence along Kendal’s River Kent will begin this week.

It is part of the controversial £76m flood scheme that the Environment Agency (EA) says will reduce the risk of flooding to 1,480 homes and 1,100 businesses across the river’s catchment area.

The EA says a ‘small number’ of trees will need removing to accommodate the work, with others needing to be cut back.

“Before work began, as well as a survey to identify any nesting birds, a tree assessment was carried out to identify and record all trees and woodlands which could be affected by these works,” said an EA spokeswoman.

“All work will take place with an arboriculturalist present, with sensitive techniques being used.

“Once work is completed, trees will be replanted to complement the rich grassland species that are being introduced.”

Stewart Mounsey, EA flood risk manager for Cumbria, said: “Construction of the £76m Flood Risk Management Scheme for Kendal is progressing, with contractors now starting work to build a flood defence wall along the River Kent near to Clarks [in Natland Road].

“The works in this location will take around five months to complete and will involve building 114 meters of flood defence wall, constructed on top of six metres of sheet piling.

“When finished, the wall will be finished in smooth concrete with sections being topped with a handrail.”

He said: “Sadly, some trees will need to be removed, but we are committed to planting species-rich grasslands and over 4000 trees across the whole area.

“More information on the Kendal Flood Risk Management Scheme can be found on www.thefloodhub/Kendal.”

The scheme has divided townsfolk since its inception.

Campaigners calling for a rethink of the project claim it provides ‘false hope’ and have questioned how much protection it will really provide.

Business leader Mark Cropper, who chairs Kendal Futures, a partnership body aiming to make the town a better place to live and work, previously said the plans constituted a ‘disregard for our town’s heritage’ and that he was ‘devastated’ about the wider impact they would have on Kendal.

Mr Cropper wrote a letter to the EA expressing these concerns which was published by The Westmorland Gazette in full in March.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron supports the scheme and has repeatedly expressed his wish to get it up and running in order to provide the promised protections to homes and businesses.