FIRE crews have pulled together to try to hold back the water in Winchester by building a metal barrier.

Helped by Navy ratings, firemen last night set up a 70 ft barrier across Park Avenue stretching from Winchester School of Art across to the back of St Bede Primary School.

Powerful pumps are sending water back into the river and the level has dropped in Park Avenue.

The River Itchen burst its banks at the end of last week and has continued to rise further towards the city centre.

Eastleigh fire and rescue assistant chief Neil Odin said they have used high volume pumps to take water away from the submerged Park Avenue.

“The navy and fire crews were here over night to provide a holding point,” he said. “The pumps don’t work unless the water’s deep enough so we’ve had to create this barrier.

“We’re working very closely with the Environment Agency so they can inform us as to where is best to position everything. At present the pumps are taking from River Park and pumping down in the Moors into a different stream.

“If this continues to get worse we will have to start pumping through the city but there’s only so much water you can pump from the water course. Right now it’s about focusing on the quality of people’s lives.

“We will be liaising directly with the Environment Agency throughout this procedure and will examine it more closely later. We may have to ask for help from the rest of the country because, for now, we are but humble pumpers.”

There has been a partial closure of the Winchester School of Art buildings on Park Avenue. A spokesman confirmed that this morning the west side building was shut, but lectures would continue as normal on the east side of the complex. Some students will be taking their lectures in the Guildhall until the site is fully operational again - a spokesman said today that was "unlikely to be before the weekend."

Meanwhile Riverside Indoor Bowls Club, next to the already-shut River Park Leisure Centre, temporarily closed yesterday due to the recent weather.