A MAJOR £120,000 project has begun to refurbish flood defences in Romsey.

Fishlake sluices are located on the outskirts of Romsey on the River Test and divert water between man-made channels flowing through the town centre and a side channel that takes the water back to a natural watercourse.

Now, the vital system is to be revamped in a £120,000 scheme undertaken by the Environment Agency.

In the winter of 2013 – 2014, Romsey saw mass floods across the town, with the first happening on Christmas Eve.

Rain continued to fall on New Year's Day, with sewage sent spilling out of drains and into the street.

The sluices have been put in place to help reduce flood risk in Romsey, while benefitting wildlife.

Deputy leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Nick Adams-King, said: "This is great news for Romsey and we are in full support of the work that the Environment Agency is undertaking to replace and upgrade the Fishlake sluices.

"These are an integral part of the water management system for the town and the upgrade will complement the Romsey flood alleviation scheme, which is set to be constructed next year. Enhancing the town's flood defences is a priority for both the council and Romsey Future.

"Just last week the borough council agreed to contribute a further £25,000 to enable the work to go ahead as quickly as possible."

The project will now see new automated sluices installed as well as state-of-the-art telemetry sensors, so that water levels can be further carefully monitored and controlled.

The construction work is expected to take around four weeks to complete by the Environment Agency contractor, AMCO. The public footpath will remain open throughout and temporary barriers installed where work is taking place.

John O'Flynn, from the Environment Agency, said: "I am delighted that we can significantly upgrade this ageing structure so that flood risk to Romsey from the River Test can be reduced ahead of the winter.

"Once this project is completed, our staff will have an even greater understanding and ability in controlling river flows through Romsey. This scheme will also provide significant benefits in ensuring that fish, wildlife and the local environment are even better protected."

The sluices ensure that flood risk is managed and that enough supply reaches fish and the environment in times of dry weather.

MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, said: "I am delighted to see the Environment Agency investing in the River Test with the refurbishment of the sluices in Romsey.

"We all remember how devastating the floods of 2013 – 2014 were for too many people and this investment will go a long way to negating the risk of future flooding, while crucially helping wildlife in our world-famous river."