Work starts on £15m Gatwick and Crawley flood defences

Residents are moved out of the care home Elderly residents were moved out of a care home during floods in 2008

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Construction work has started on a £15m flood defence scheme in West Sussex to protect Crawley and Gatwick Airport.

More than 1,300 homes and businesses will see their flood risk significantly reduced, the Environment Agency said.

Concerns were raised in 2008 about flooding in Crawley after the River Mole burst its banks, leading to the evacuation of a care home.

The Environment Agency said floods had hit the area several times recently, with serious floods in 1968 and 2000.

Environment Agency area flood risk manager Ian Tomes said: "As has already been seen in this area, flooding is very destructive and could force the closure of Gatwick Airport and major disruption to the whole region.

"It is vital we do everything we can to reduce the impacts where and when we can."

Floodwater storage

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport chief executive, said: "In 2000, the A23 under the airport's South Terminal was closed because of torrential rain, and this scheme will dramatically reduce the risk of this happening again."

The Upper Mole Flood Alleviation Scheme will increase storage capacity for floodwater by raising the level of the dam at Tilgate Lake.

New flood storage areas have also been proposed at three river sites.

During and after heavy rain, the storage areas will hold large amounts of water which will slowly be released back into the rivers.

The flood defence scheme is scheduled to be completed by 2013.

The River Mole burst its banks in 2008 leading to the evacuation of a care home in Crawley

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