WORK on a drainage culvert at risk of collapsing in Chesham town centre is to start today - and could last until July.

Up to 40 metres of the Vale Brook culvert, which runs underneath Market Square, will be replaced during the 17 week project.

Experts say the work is essential as the 19th century culvert is in poor condition and in places is at risk of collapsing.

The work will be carried out by the Environment Agency, in partnership with Chesham Town Council, Chiltern District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council.

Tony Coe from the Environment Agency said: "Repair work is needed to replace the culvert as it is in a poor condition which could increase the risk of flooding to the town.

"It is important that this work takes place as soon as possible and every effort will be made to minimise disruption for local businesses and residents while the work takes place."

Janet Blake, Cabinet Member for Planning and Transportation at Buckinghamshire County Council, said: "We are very pleased to be part of this important partnership project which will help to minimise any risk to property damage in and around Market Square, as well as helping to avoid potential future flooding."

The culvert provides surface water drainage and runs underneath the town centre to the River Chess.

But repair work is needed to prevent damage to Market Square and nearby properties, as well as to prevent an increase in flooding to the High Street area.

The main construction work is expected to take 17 weeks and will take place during weekdays and over some weekends.