Monday, 16 July 2018

Residents sceptical about flood prevention work

A NEW drainage system to prevent flooding in Rotherfield Greys might not work, say villagers.

A NEW drainage system to prevent flooding in Rotherfield Greys might not work, say villagers.

A soakaway is being fitted in Greys Road after residents complained to Oxfordshire County Council about a large volume of water collecting every time it rains.

The underground structure is designed to store the immediate storm water run-off to allow infiltration into the surrounding ground.

Nicola Whittle, who has campaigned for action since she and her husband Rob moved into their terraced home near the Maltsters Arms in 2005, is sceptical about whether it will work.

The couple’s driveway is always left covered in silt after a heavy flood and the water has dislodged the spring bulbs in their garden.

Mrs Whittle, who works for the Environment Agency, said: “I’m very pleased that they are doing something but I’m concerned about whether it will have the capacity to manage the amount of water that collects in that area when it rains.

“I don’t want to take away from the fact that something is being done, but there is already a soakaway there that has blocked up.

“If they don’t maintain this one it’s going to stop working very quickly.”

Neighbour Samantha Green, who has lived in the village for two-and-a-half years, said the flooding problem was “horrendous”.

“It fills up so quickly if you have torrential rain. My drive gets filled with water. It doesn’t stop us from going out but when I reverse into a 2ft puddle it gets up into my engine.

“I went through it one day and got to the end of the road and had no brakes. They had frozen because the water was so cold.

“I can’t have carpet in the house because of the mud that accumulates.

“I’ve had family who have gone to the Maltsters Arms but not visited me because they couldn’t get here.” Tom Marshall, 57, an engineer, questioned the need for a second soakaway.

“There’s another one which has never been maintained,” he said. “It’s good that the council is taking action but it seems like there was a cheaper and easier option.”

The road has been closed for two weeks while the work takes place and is not due to re-open until the end of this week.

Mrs Whittle and her neighbours criticised the council for providing little information in advance.

She said: “We were sent a generic letter saying they were going to close the road for 12 days. All of us had to individually call the council to ask how it was going to affect us and how we were going to access our driveways.

“We didn’t know where the roadworks were going to be until we rang up and asked.”

Peter Bland, landlord of the Maltsters Arms, said he was “very unhappy” after only learning about the closure 10 days beforehand.

He said: “I had a party of 40 people booked last Saturday and they had to tell everyone to go via different routes.

“A lady who lives by the war memorial, about 300 yards away on the other side of the roadworks, has to drive six miles to get here for dinner.

“Even though there’s signage, people are still coming along the road from Henley and having to turn round in my car park and then drive back again.”

Mr Bland conceded that the flooding problem needed to be solved but said: “I’m sure there was another way rather than shutting the road for 12 days.”

Town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith said the new soakaway would be easier to maintain than the existing one because it was on council land rather than in a farmer’s field like the original one.

He said: “They have carried out investigations to check whether the water would drain away and they must be satisfied with that otherwise they wouldn’t be doing the work.”

A WOMAN is appealing for drains outside her home to be investigated in a bid to prevent flooding.

Nicola Whittle, whose front garden in Rotherfield Greys floods every time it rains, claims she had been repeatedly “fobbed off” by Oxfordshire County Council.

She has been demanding action almost since she and husband Rob moved into her terraced home in Greys Road near the Maltsters Arms in 2005.

Mrs Whittle works for the Environment Agency and said: “It is ironic but this is a local authority problem.

“Ever since we moved here it has been bad but it has got worse. The council is meant to maintain the drain. I report it every single time but nothing gets done.”

Last week, the heavy rainfall meant that the huge puddle which always forms in the road outside the house came halfway up her drive.

Mrs Whittle believes that tree roots have blocked the land drains in the fields opposite her home.

She said: “The council is supposed to maintain the drain on a regular basis but that now happens once a year instead of three times, I assume in a bid to cut costs.They cleaned the drains on the Friday and then on Tuesday and Wednesday last week it poured with rain and the puddle was back straight away, so the system is not working.

“Pumping the area is completely pointless as it is a short-term solution. The field needs digging up to re-lay the land drains.”

Mrs Whittle, whose husband is a director for an environmental consultancy, recently spent thousands of pounds landscaping their front garden.

“It was a lot of money but now the end of our driveway has been washed away,” she said. “The bulbs we planted in the spring have been dislodged. It is soul-destroying.

“People driving past look in our window and wonder what is going on. They think it is funny, they do not think that it is destroying someone’s garden.”

The couple, who have two daughters, Eleanor, nine, and Francesca, six, say the flooding is a safety hazard. Mrs Whittle said: “There is a bend so people do not see the huge puddle and some drivers go through it at great speed and many use the wrong side of the road to avoid the deepest part. It also causes traffic jams.

“The road is on the main bus route into Henley and is used by all the school buses.My daughters catch the school bus to Peppard Primary School each morning and it is dangerous to walk from our house to the pub layby to wait for it.” In February 2010 the water froze and caused an accident. Mrs Whittle said: “A car skidded on the ice and collided with another car.

“I had reported the flooding the week before but nothing was done.

“The county council sent a letter on March 4 that year to say they were investigating, then another one a week later saying the drainage system was on an increased frequency cleaning level.”

Mrs Whittle complained to county councillor David Nimmo Smith and to the parish council, which said it had been trying for years to solve the problem. “Our neighbours are really fed up as well,” she said. “Obviously a big storm is going to make a number of roads flood and I have been fobbed off with that enough times but here it is not just a normal occurrence.”

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “I have asked the county officers again to inspect the drain and gully and do more than just clean it out. If there is a blockage or something which prevents it dealing with the amount of water during and after downpours, then something needs to be done. It is inconvenient for the residents of the adjacent houses and is a hazard for the many motorists who use that road. It may be as simple as putting in cutting grips to allow water to discharge to the adjacent field or it may necessitate reconstruction.

“I am not a drainage expert, so I will leave it to the officers to bring forward the permanent solution and I will keep pestering them until the situation is resolved.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said an officer had visited the site on Wednesday and would report back his findings.

* Sewage works in Henley are progressing well, according to Thames Water. Sewage pipes in eight streets had been surveyed by Wednesday afternoon.

Jay Sevani, who is helping manage the project, said: “We have managed to clean out sewers where there have been minor issues but so far we’ve not come across any major blockages.

“We’re expected to up the pace of our work next week as more flushing and CCTV vehicles get involved but so far we are very pleased with how things are going.”

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