FALLEN branches and other debris were pulled from the River Ock in Abingdon this week to reduce the risk of flooding.

Three Environment Agency workers wearing protective clothing and armed with long sticks waded into the water near Tesco on Tuesday to remove rubbish from the bottom of the river.

Oxford Mail:

Large branches, which can cause water to build up during heavy rainfall, were also removed.

The workers were joined by field team leader John Hillier and river maintenance specialist Mathew Green, who between them have more than 90 years experience maintaining the county’s waterways.

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When Mr Hillier, from Wallingford, joined the EA in 1968 he worked on the reconstruction of Whitchurch Weir in Hampshire, and the modernisation of the sluice gates using a steam crane, a pickaxe and a shovel.

Oxford Mail:

He was recognised for his services to flood risk management earlier this year when he was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Years’ Honours list.

The regular maintenance work comes after it was revealed last month a multi-million pound scheme to reduce the risk of flooding in the town had been abandoned due to spiralling costs.

Oxford Mail:

The EA had been working with Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee on the plans, which centred around building a flood storage area at Abingdon Common.

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Measuring 1.5km long and up to 2.6m high, the structure was set to divert flood waters away from at risk areas but partners agreed to shelve the scheme in the short term after costs went up from £5m to £9.7m.

In the last 30 years, Abingdon has experienced flooding in 2000, 2003 and most recently in 2007 when 400 homes and 20 businesses were flooded.

The Rivers Ock, Thames, Stert and the Sandford Brook all contribute to flooding in the town.