The Environment Agency received a grilling over a multi-million pound price rise for the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier at the town council's annual town meeting last night (Thursday, May 10).

Residents gathered in the Town Hall to hear, among other things, a presentation from the Environment Agency's John Buttivant on the progress on the scheme.

The mayor of Bridgwater at the time of the meeting, Cllr Graham Granter, asked for an explanation as to why the cost had shot up from £70m in October to £100m now.

Mr Buttivant said: "The downstream flood enhancements at Chilton Trinity have proved more costly than we initially envisaged.

"We estimated that section would cost around £5m but further research indicates it is more likely to cost between £10m and £12m."

Mr Buttivant explained that the site location had been moved, which had a lot of advantages in terms of ease of access for construction, but did also mean that the structure itself would need to be wider.

"Other additional costs have been found since we have carrying our further environmental surveys. The bedrock is weaker than we thought, so our foundation will need to be both deeper and stronger," Mr Buttivant said.

However Dave Chapple of the Bridgwater and District Civic Society was unimpressed.

"As a taxpayer I am disappointed with the complacent answer from the Environment Agency as to why the cost has overrun so much. This is a public sector project, and I would like to know if anyone has lost their job over this as it is clear they have made a huge mistake in their costings at the taxpayer's expense," Mr Chapple said.

Mr Buttivant confirmed that no-one had lost their job as a result of the price estimation increase.

Mr Buttivant said the structure - which will be a twin vertical lift gate barrier - will be between 15m and 20m high and approximately 30m wide.

"The scheme benefits 1,500 businesses and is considered critical infrastructure for the building of 8,000 new homes," Mr Buttivant said.

It is expected a further round of consultation on the design of the barrier will take place this autumn, with plans to submit Transport and Works Act (TWA order) which would need to be signed off by the Secretary of State in spring 2019.

A separate planning application for the downstream second embankment works at Chilton Trinity will be submitted around the same time.

If these are both approved, the contract is expected to be awarded in 2020, with the hope that the tidal barrier will be operational in 2024.