WORK on flood defences to protect hundreds of homes along the banks of the River Irwell may be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned.

Construction works for Phase 2 of the £40 million Radcliffe and Redvales Flood Alleviation Scheme were due to begin this month.

But, due to Covid-19, the EA and project contractors have said they are now reviewing the planned start to assess what can be “safely progressed”, in light of Government restrictions.

If commencing on the works is deemed a safety risk, then construction will be postponed, the EA said.

Bury Council’s cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Alan Quinn, said: “We were hoping to see the start of Phase 2 of the scheme start, especially in light of the floods that affected Redvales in February, however I’m sure local residents will understand that construction cannot continue as normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Residents can be assured though that we will be doing all we can, working in conjunction with the Environment Agency and residents to get the flood defences finished.”

In the interim, EA area flood and coastal risk manager, Peter Costello, said that the project team is moving ahead with other tasks that will “ensure a swift site setup when the time comes to restart construction”.

However, the EA has also confirmed it is postponing public meetings, including the regular drop-in sessions held in Radcliffe, "until it is safe to hold them again".

Mr Costello said: “We are doing all we can to ensure work continues as much as is safe to do so and that delays caused by the knock-on effects of this pandemic are kept to an absolute minimum.”

Despite possible delays to the second phase of construction, work is currently continuing on Phase 1 of the defences, in line with Public Health England advice.

These works are focussed on Close Park and Morris Street and include a permanent 2.5m flood wall at the rear of properties in Parkside Close, and a 3m-high earth embankment on the far side of the park, with football pitches acting as a natural floodplain.

Work in Close Park will also include the creation of new wildlife habitat and increased public amenities ­— including a £150,000 extension to the junior football club building, which is coming out of a £2 million contribution from Bury Council.

When completed the entire scheme will protect more than 870 properties from the effects of flooding, the EA said.

Mr Costello added: “As government advice changes daily, the construction process must alter to allow for safe practice, the pace may slow and the number of workforce on the site may be reduced and as such, the effects on the programme are continuously changing.

"Our priority in these difficult times is the health, safety and wellbeing of residents, staff and construction workers.

"Unfortunately, due to the number of unknown factors we are unable to provide a revised end date to Phase 1 at this time and we hope residents will understand and appreciate that we are continuing to do what we can in these unusual circumstances.

“The effect which the Coronavirus situation will have on the scheme is still unclear and will depend on developments over the next days and weeks.

"If our plans change significantly due to the situation we will keep the community informed.”