THE fightback against the floods appears to be working in Winchester – for now.

Levels in the city centre have dropped slightly following the emergency engineering work at Easton and erection of two flood barriers in Park Avenue.

One street that lived up to its name at the height of the crisis was the aptly-named Water Lane But the historic route is now flood-free for the first time in weeks following a massive operation by the armed forces and the Environment Agency. On Saturday an eight-man team from 22 Royal Engineers, based at Tidworth, lowered 300 giant bags filled with gravel at two sites on the River Itchen at Kings Worthy.

The aim is to restrict the flow and divert much water on to surrounding land that will reduce the pressure two miles downstream in the city centre.

Andy Hickman, head of projects at the city council: said: “This is the second stage of the work that we started at Easton a few days ago.

“We are slowing down the flow and creating a storage area to the east of here in the water meadows. That will enable the water to go at a slower rate and give time for the water to drain away downstream.”

In the city centre itself, a second metal barrier was erected early on Saturday next to the School of Art.

The fire service is operating powerful pumps that are diverting water at the rate 70 litres a second past the affected area and down to The Weirs, easing pressure on the sewer drains in Upper, Middle and Lower Brook streets.

Andrew Gilham, flood manager for the Environment Agency, said the work could take vital inches off the water levels: “This is not the full answer but it is part of the solution. About ten properties have flooded but it would be worse if we did not do this work.”

One of the soldiers involved in the operation, Sgt Richie Smith, said: “It’s good to be able to help – that’s what the Army is all about.”

The flooding continues to affect many properties. In Hursley the King’s Head has closed until further notice because of flood damage. The other village pub The Dolphin remains open.

Meanwhile, back in Winchester, Dan Noakes, a homeowner in Water Lane, said he and a neighbour had paid £180 for the two-week hire of a water pump He said: “There are council tenants further up the street who are hoping the council will help with their costs.”

The armed forces have placed hundreds of sandbags between Water Lane and the River Itchen as part of the campaign to protect properties.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It flooded about two weeks ago and cars trying to get through created giant waves.

“I came home quite late to find the Royal Navy putting sandbags out, which was wonderful.

“I’d so like to thank the people who did all the work – everyone has co-operated so well.”