Arundel river wall repair scheme ‘glimmer of hope’ to residents

Johnny and Belinda Boylan, left, and Kim Parkes, right. Taken in February.
Johnny and Belinda Boylan, left, and Kim Parkes, right. Taken in February.

A scheme to repair a collapsed river wall in Arundel has been described as the ‘first glimmer of hope’ to the worst-affected residents.

Johnny and Belinda Boylan from River Road have been living with a gaping hole in their wall plugged by sand bags since January 2016 when a section of it fell into the River Arun.

To plug the hole, they were initially told they would have to plug the funding gap too.

But thanks to intervention by Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, a £4million scheme by the Environment Agency has been accelerated to fix the damage and protect 130 properties in Arundel from flooding.

Reacting to the news, Mr Boylan, 64, said he was feeling ‘hopeful’ and ‘happy’.

He said: “It is the first glimmer of hope we have had in virtually three years.”

The scheme will be funded by a government grant, council contributions and £300,000 from residents, and is due to be completed in autumn 2020, according to Mr Herbert.

Mr Boylan said he was ‘taken aback’ when he was told the wall would be fixed.

He said: “The whole street is pretty excited about it – but it is still another year, maybe a year and a half by the time it is done. It is good things are happening, but they haven’t happened yet.”

It has been a difficult 18 months for the couple, who got married in June last year weeks after Belinda, 55, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

He said: “She is almost bed-bound now, so it is horrible. Everything else pales in comparison.”

During that time, the hole in the wall had been an added stress. Mr Boylan said: “We were flooded. Water came into the house, we were constantly nervous, looking at the tide tables, seeing if it is it raining. It is a tense time, especially now my wife is desperately ill.”

The couple initially led the resident campaign to get the wall fixed, but handed over the reins to Kim Parkes so they could focus on Mrs Boylan’s health.

The chairman of the River Road Action Group said: “The relief felt by affected residents now that a resolution to fix the river wall has been announced is overwhelming. An agonising period lasting nearly three years has come to an end and during that time the chaotic events that ensued resulted in severe desperation for all directly affected parties.”