Council vows to act over flooding as Saffron Walden residents say they are ‘living in fear’

PUBLISHED: 08:29 02 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:29 02 August 2018

Essex Fire crews help out with flooding on Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Essex Fire crews help out with flooding on Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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Residents of Bridge Street in Saffron Walden have spoken out about the ‘trauma’ of living in fear of flooding after houses on the street were almost submerged last Friday.

Mayor Paul Fairhurst helping with the flash floods on Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDMayor Paul Fairhurst helping with the flash floods on Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Joanne and Malcolm Snow have called on Essex Highways to take action and asked why they are not ‘performing their duties’.

“Bridge Street once again was almost flooded on Friday, due to the same, multiple problems as last year,” Joanne said. “It took most of the residents, including mayor Paul Fairhurst, and local fire brigade to slow the traffic, move water to unblocked drains, clear debris from the drains and stop water ingress into the houses.

“In fact Paul Fairhurst’s house was most at risk and the water was centimetres from breaching his front door.

“He has assured the residents that he will be raising the issue with the highest powers to understand why Essex Highways is not performing its duties.”

Essex Fire crews assist with flash floods in Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDEssex Fire crews assist with flash floods in Bridge Street. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Joanne and her husband said they will be contacting Essex Highways to ask why blocked drains haven’t been cleared and why two drain covers which have been stolen have not been replaced.

“Our daughter and neighbours have both nearly fallen down - very negligent,” Joanna said. “These two drains are also filling up with silt and stones. I reported the stolen covers in January to Essex Highways - plastic cover and a cone were placed over the drain, thus blocking drains from collecting water. Also, when cars go over the cover, it moves, exposing the open drain and thus causing a serious hazard to cars and people, especially at night.

“I do hope that this continuously re-occurring issue is now finally addressed as the trauma of living in fear of flooding, due to reasons beyond our control, is causing distress and financial hardship.”

Councillor Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council’s deputy leader, said: “We’re sorry to hear of the recent flooding in Saffron Walden and I would like to assure local residents that we are taking action.

“I can confirm an Essex Highways crew attended Bridge Street last Saturday morning to inspect the issue and our drain cleaning crew is checking and cleaning the drains in this area to make sure there are no blockages. This will continue over the next few days.

“Unfortunately, Bridge Street is currently vulnerable to sudden heavy downpours because the drains flow into the stream, which can also be affected by the rain.

“However I’m pleased to share that our flood team will be part of the Environment Agency’s forthcoming River Slade scheme later this financial year. This will involve work to improve the flow of water in the culvert, which runs under the town centre, thereby reducing the risk of surface flooding on the roads and to people’s homes in the area.

“Alongside this, they are working with Essex Highways to review what can be done to alleviate problems associated with instances of exceptionally heavy rainfall.

“We will learn from recent events and I would like to reassure the residents of Saffron Walden that tackling this issue is a priority for us. Although there is no quick fix, there is undoubtedly more that must be done to improve the situation locally, including repairing broken connecting pipes.”

Essex County Council’s representative for Saffron Walden, Councillor John Moran, added: “This is a complex issue which does not seem to have had the focus it deserves from previous county councillors. Since the problem, which is experienced in several areas of the town, but fortunately not by a large number of properties, was brought to my attention in July 2017 I have been pushing Essex County Council to improve their maintenance program for areas that are at most risk from surface water flooding.

“I have suggested that those areas are inspected at least twice a year if not more, I have also put several residents in contact with the relevant department at Chelmsford to see if they qualify for assistance and/or grants to better secure their properties against water ingress.

“However very heavy rain, particularly when a sudden downpour delivers a month’s rain in minutes can overwhelm local road drains. Highways drainage systems are designed to cope with normal levels of rainfall and cannot necessarily cope with extreme water volumes.

“With the apparent changes to our weather systems experienced over the last few years where such downpours are becoming more frequent, I feel it is time for all parties involved to look at how we maintain our existing drainage systems and how we can if possible add to them.”

Essex Fire service said they were called to five houses last weekend to help with flooding.

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