Top county councillors are going to discuss how they can use the Boston Barrier project to get an economic boost for the area.
The £90 million barrier aims to protect Boston from the risk of tidal flooding – such as that seen in December 2013 – but it is also hoped that it can have a knock-on effect on the economy by boosting the waterways as a tourist attraction.
Lincolnshire County Council is providing £11 million of the cost of the project and will now discuss the most ‘effective’ way in which the money can be used.
Future waterways improvements, such as the Fens Waterway Link, are said to be possible because the barrier can be used to hold water in the Haven, known as water level management (WLM). Other measures could be done in advance of WLM.
A council spokesman said that until recently it was thought that operating WLM straight away would bring significant economic regeneration.
However, a recent study has revealed that introducing WLM at a later date, and instead making other investments, such as new moorings and upgraded locks first, will bring benefits sooner and with greater certainty.
Coun Colin Davie, executive member for economic development, said: “Officers are recommending we take a phased approach, which not only means the benefits will be felt sooner, but promises a greater boost overall.
“It also means we can be sure that the barrier itself is delivered on time – something that’s of paramount importance for the local community.
“The initial steps we are looking at include creating new or improving existing facilities to increase access to the Haven and the availability of moorings in and around Boston.
“However, the longer term aim remains to hold higher and more stable water levels in Boston, with boats moored throughout Haven and in the town centre to make the area more attractive from the water and alongside it in the town.”
The Boston Barrier is expected to start construction in 2017 and be completed by December 2019.
Coun Peter Bedford, Leader of Boston Borough Council, welcomed the report and conclusions and said it made “a lot of sense”.
Coun Bedford said: “It has always been the Borough Council’s and the community’s view that the vital flood defence elements of the Boston Barrier must take absolute priority and be delivered on time.
“Using the Barrier to also hold water back in The Haven to create new regeneration opportunities is also very exciting, and now might form a future phase of the project, while regeneration monies are spent on associated and more immediate improvements at Grand Sluice and on additional moorings.
“This will ensure that our town sees earlier benefits from Lincolnshire County Council’s investment without disadvantaging our existing boating community or slowing progress on the Barrier.”
The county council’s executive will discuss the barrier on Tuesday, February 3.