‘WE are sorry’ was the message from forlorn flooding bosses when they promised work will finally get under way on a desperately needed barrier protecting Purley from the River Thames.

More than 100 villagers whose homes have been devastated by some of the worst downpours in living memory gathered to hear Environment Agency chiefs pledge that new defences will now be built as soon as possible.

The EA has said it will build a five metre wide bund, or retaining wall, to the north of Wintringham Way as well as installing a new pumping platform by River Gardens. Homes in both streets were wrecked last month when they were flooded with around a foot of water, with Labour leader Ed Miliband visiting the village to see the chaos wrought by the rising river levels.

During a meeting called by West Reading MP Alok Sharma on Thursday last week, the EA’s Martin Bryan apologised to villagers for not building the bund sooner, but said funding for the vital project is now in place.

Mr Sharma said: “Residents have every right to feel disappointed that more has not been done previously to prevent flooding, but I am pleased that we now have two sets of works due to take place which should help to alleviate the situation in future.

“The local flood wardens, who offer their services on a voluntary basis, have proven themselves in particular to be remarkably selfless and we have seen some excellent examples of community spirit during this difficult time.”

He also encouraged businesses and homeowners to apply for grants of up to £5,000 from the Government, which can be used to pay for repairs which improve a property’s ability to withstand future flooding.

But Purley flood warden Fiona Williamson said the fight for more flood defences will continue. She added: “There has been a tremendous outpouring of community spirit during the recent floods and I hope we can utilise some of that energy to fight to prevent future flooding, rather than always reacting in an emergency."