Residents along the River Mole are protesting Environment Agency (EA) plans for an overhaul of the river's Flood Alleviation Scheme.

Last month, the EA issued an update on its plans to refurbish the existing Scheme that manages water and flood defences on the Mole River.

A spokesperson said that the agency were "consider possible options for the refurbishment of the Scheme through an appraisal process."

Residents initially raised concerns following a consultation meeting where the possible removal of sluice gates that help control the flow of water in the river was suggested.

Since then, and despite the EA's insistence that the plans are in a very preliminary stage, residents in Molesey, Thames Ditton and elsewhere along the course of the river banded together to create Save River Mole, a campaign aimed and preserving what they regard as a central feature of their landscape.

"Lot's of residents were horrified to discover that one of the proposals was to decommission the sluice gates.

"The rivers would be reduced to small and insignificant rivers and that's going to affect an awful number of people," Adrian Bye, who is involved in the Save River Mole campaign, told the Comet.

Mr Bye added that concerns over the flora and fauna that thrive on the River Mole were also driving the campaign forwards.

"For many years we've had kingfishers, nesting swans, huge carp in the river...the ecology and habitats will change if the river is converted from a larger river to a stream by these plans, while in other tributaries the water could stop flowing completely," he said.

Surrey Comet: Image: Adrian Bye / Save Mole RiverImage: Adrian Bye / Save Mole River

Residents involved in the campaign subsequently announced they were staging a creative protest in support for the river as it currently flows.

On Sunday (July 7) dozens of residents jumped into to the river from the bridge or took to the water on crafts of their choice, showing their support for the existing status quo that sees the Mole flow to a considerable depth in the area.

The demonstration drew the attention of several councillors, including Thames Ditton Councillor Karen Randolph.

"Lots of residents have written to me about this and I am concerned that I haven't heard a full explanation from the EA as to why this is the route they want to go down...the river is so appreciated and well used by residents," Cllr Randolph said.

The Elmbridge councillor stressed that she was reserving judgement due to the EA's plans still being under development, but suggested that existing pressures to encourage more development in the greener spaces around the Mole River were a concern that changes to the scheme could exacerbate.

As for the campaign event held in the river itself over the weekend, Cllr Randolph described it as "brilliant."

"There was a really good atmosphere and this is an organically grown campaign not dominated by anyone in particular. These rivers are vital parts of the community..."

The EA for its part insisted that the plans for refurbishment of the Flood Alleviation Scheme are at "a very early stage" in the consultation process and that nothing had been finalized yet.

Further, a spokesperson for the EA disputed the claim made by campaigners that they had plans to remove the sluice gates on the Mole entirely.

"The project to refurbish the scheme is at a very early stage and there are no plans in place to remove sluice gates from along the River Ember or the River Mole.

"Earlier this year, we shared a number of design concepts with local residents at two public drop-in sessions.

"One of the several concepts presented included removing sluice gates to explore the opportunity of creating a more natural environment and improving fish and eel passage...we are now reviewing these to accommodate residents’ views while exploring the environmental benefits that work to the existing scheme could achieve," the EA spokesperson said.

Surrey Comet: Image: Adrian Bye / Save Mole RiverImage: Adrian Bye / Save Mole River

They added thanks to respondents of their initial consultation plans and insisted that they would be working with "local groups" in the area before finalising any plans for the refurbishment of the Scheme.

"We would like to thank residents for their feedback which has highlighted key concerns and misunderstandings about the scheme and the process we are following.

"Our priority is to sustain the current level of flood protection and we will work with residents and local groups, listen carefully to their views and discuss how the refurbishment of the existing scheme can best be achieved," the EA said.