People are living in fear of flooding every time there is a heavy downpour
- Credit: Geoff Soden
Flooding in Huntingdonshire over the past year has wrecked homes and businesses and caused huge anxiety for many who sit in fear of rising water levels every time it rains.
In a special report, Clare Butler talks to householders and asks the flooding authorities to respond to claims that some of the damage is preventable.
The Human Cost
While the weather can’t be controlled; there are certain maintenance checks of drainage systems that could, or should, be in place to prevent the enormity of flooding devastation, according to people living in the area.
Desperate readers effected by flooding have contacted The Hunts Post to plead with officials in the various sectors for greater support and prevention.
They argue that if drains and ditches had been cleaned properly in recent years, at least some of the flooding, most notably during last summer and at Christmas, may have been prevented.
One of those people is Carol Osborne, who along with husband David, both in their 70s, were left frightened when their home in Station Road, Bluntisham, was hit by flash floods last August.
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It led to a complete renovation of their downstairs, with new carpets, furniture and a new kitchen.
“It was like a monsoon torrent of water coming down that ran off the field and found its way into the streets,” Carol explained.
“It was like a river and before we knew it, it came into the garden and turned that into a swimming pool and then came into the house.
“It was so distressing and such a surreal situation.
“I felt secure living here before but now when it starts to rain heavy my hands start to tremble.
“It's been so hard to live through this utter chaos when it got so frightening so very quickly.”
Although Carol and David were supported promptly by highways officials, they had to undergo an exhausting process to claim via their house insurance.
She continued: "We really appreciate the remedial work done by the highways officer and his contractors since our flood in August.
“However, one of the main reasons why we flooded was due to the drains and ditches not being cleaned out for years – they were full.
“The drains were completely clogged by tree roots and drain pipes were breaking apart with the force of the roots that had grown.”
Frustrated St Ives resident Theresa Norris, contacted the newspaper to express her anger, claiming the authorities are not willing to take responsibility for drainage problems.
“In my opinion there are joint reasons for the present situation; such as poor planning decisions without due regard to the drainage situation.
“Poor maintenance and upkeep of drains, ditches and pumping stations, an out-dated sewerage system and disastrous maintenance.
Gary Towns, from St Neots, said: “Around 50 years ago in the winter there would be hedging and ditching around the fields and this cleared all the rubbish out and built up the sides again so when it rained water would flow away.
“If this work was to be done again then I am sure a great deal of our problems would disappear.”
Just last month, businessman and Corkers Crisp entrepreneur Ross Taylor launched a Facebook group dedicated solely to the flooding. It now has more than 3,000 members.
“In my view, and for whatever reason, the Environment Agency and other authorities haven't been doing their jobs for a long time,” Mr Taylor said.
Not only has distress been caused from flooding in the area but raw sewage has clogged up roads, driveways and gardens in Hemingford Grey in recent weeks.
Following on from our front page last week (February 17), Don Costello, from The Apple Orchard, said the sewage systems had been an ongoing concern for 30 years – prompting him to write to MP’s for help, including former prime minister John Major.
Mr Costello argued: “Instead of [the authorities] blaming the floods, one of the main contributors to sewage is 60-year-old collapsing pitch fibre pipes that are below the water table in times of flood. Pipes had only a 25-year life when they were installed.”
Mary Newell also shared photos of sewage water polluting the road from four different dates.
“This has been hugely distressing to residents,” she added.
“We’ve had to carefully walk around the discharge for several weeks to avoid getting contamination on our footwear.”