Tuesday, 7 August 2007

a more considered view of the floods (Brian Leeke)


Commencing July 20th 2007.

The exceptional rainstorms of Friday 20th July, when about two average months’ rainfall was recorded in one day, resulted in the Deerhurst village ‘basin’ by the ‘T’ junction to St Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, being filled to a point where the floodwater pumps were proven hopelessly ineffective. The resultant Sunday 22nd July surge in the Severn of some 10 feet saw floods in the Deerhurst Parish basin exceeding the 1947 levels and proportions. The result was flooding in eighteen Deerhurst village houses and at least thirteen vehicles submerged under the water. The speed of the rise in the levels of the flood was amazing and a little alarming.

There were some truly outstanding endeavours to protect the village on that Sunday by increasing the height of the flood banks and the two stank gates:

a) Kenny Samuel and Marcus Smith on the tractors and trailer continuously took loads of earth to various sites

b) Tim Morris, John Cutter and Marcus Smith on three JCB & MF earth moving equipment covered the banks weak points

c) Kenny and Tim did an unbelievable amount of heavy work shoring up the weak points all round the boundary

d) Will Morris and Des Samuel gave knowledgeable and helpful advice (both of whom had experienced many floods in the past, but not of this magnitude)

e) physical spade & shovel work and determined assistance was given by Deerhurst and some very kind Apperley residents (lead by Deerhurst Flood Warden, Norman MacPherson)

f) a fourteen hour day’s hard labour was recorded on the inner flood banks and was genuinely unforgettable. Sadly, it was to no avail due to a number of reasons which need addressing – some of which are done so below:

Obvious points, generally agreed:

  1. This disaster could happen again due to ‘climate change’ – and soon.
  2. The present Deerhurst pumping system is not effective.

2.1 It needs increasing in capacity by supplying a parallel and permanently installed battery starting hydraulic pumping system in case of an electricity problem as experienced in 2007.

2.2 The present inadequate pumping facility needs raising two feet six inches from its present base and its capacity increasing many fold.

Note: On Wednesday 25th July the water level in the Severn was approximately one foot lower than that inside the Deerhurst village basin and in consequence the houses had higher levels of flood water in them than they should have had i.e. due primarily to the inability of the pumps to help drain the basin quickly. At one stage the basin’s water was poring over the flood banks into the Severn. The present inadequate pumping system cuts out on overheating, which is totally unacceptable.

  1. The Deerhurst 1947 level Inner Flood Banks are too low to hold back the 2007 level type floods and need increasing in height by at least two feet six inches all round the present defence boundary.
  2. The new stank gates are two feet six inches too low.

4.1 They need a physical support in the middle as a worrying ‘banana’ bow was seen in them due to the pressure of the floodwater. This support could be a separate solid metal post positioned in the centre of the gate and sunk to a sensible depth into the road.

4.2 The tarmac road is leaking below the gates.

4.3 There were leaks down the sides of the gates or their structures, both of which need investigation and possibly strengthening.

  1. There is a witnessed need to increase the flood bank protection in many new places (besides the increase in overall bank height):

5.1 in the church yard where major problems were witnessed (a new flood bank required)

5.2 by the porous walls on either side of the road to the church stank gate

5.3 around the area by the Apperley Road stank gate

5.4 from Mr K Samuel’s animal slurry pit to the present flood bank (a new flood bank required with provision for an animal crossing point)

5.5 on the Barn Lane road entrance into the village (an area where problems have been seen before but not satisfactorily overcome by STWA or Environmental Agency)

5.6 on either side of the road of the above para 5.5 (one new flood bank required on the village side).

5.7 access to the pumping station is needed via the banks from Barn Lane road and similar access is required from the church road to the banks leading to Deerhurst House.

5.8 land water flowing into the village down Barn Lane needs diverting into the river and not allowing to flow into the village.

  1. The supply of 2500 sand bags should be given as soon as possible along with the necessary sand, to allow Parishioners to build up reserve defences should emergencies be experienced in the future.
  2. The total lack of assistance from any of the authorities was to a degree understandable in the circumstances and is an omen for the future. Deerhurst village needs to be self-supporting in its defence against similar future floods. To enable such a position resources must be provided to allow those defences to be built and maintained.
  3. The lack of Environmental Agency up to date communication was disturbing. The information given was questionable at most times.

The STWA or Environmental Agency can not be blamed for this disaster to our village, however, if it were to happen again with the same levels of flooding experienced, the STWA or Environmental Agency should be held totally responsible if the above recommendations have not been acted upon in a reasonable timescale. The Government has stated that financial aid is available for the communities such as Deerhurst, so there cannot be any excuses.

Following a requested visit to the village by the Gloucestershire Chief Fire Officer on Saturday and the visitor’s immediate and sympathetic reaction to our plight (when the Environmental Agency was not taking the event as a village disaster), the Gloucestershire (Cirencester), West Yorkshire (Bradford & Leeds) and Northampton Fire & Rescue Service did a truly fantastic job clearing a comparatively massive volume of water from the village basin. Without their help the water would have been in the village gardens for days longer. The Environmental Agency’s two pumping facilities (one from Uttoxeter), when they eventually began a 24 hours per day operation, were equally praiseworthy and their respective personnel remarkably courteous and excellent in all respects.

The attached map highlights those areas described above. There is plenty of photographic evidence available should it be needed and it is assumed from the squadrons of helicopters and light aircraft flying over the Parish during the flood, that there are many interesting films available for detailed examination. An in depth survey is required to allow constructive review of the total situation and recommendations for immediate action. It has been indicated that the Environmental Agency does wish to increase the level of our banks because of the down stream effects on Gloucester. Balderdash ! Our village basin is a thimble full of water when one looks at the total Severn flood basin. We must put sustained pressure on the powers-to-be to ensure that this disaster does not occur again.

Other highlights included:

a) Mr Dave Cameron, Tory Leader, and Laurence Robertson MP visiting the village outskirts on Saturday 28th July

b) A high ranking National Fire Officer, the Bishop of Tewkesbury and the Archdeacon of Cheltenham all came to inspect the village problems. The Fire Officer was appalled and organised the Fire Service Pumping Units supply for which the affected village home owners will be eternally grateful.

On August 6th, the village entrance with piles of earth, stagnant and sewage laden water trapped in the fields, rutted road surfaces and hedge borne flotsam had not been attacked by any authority. Tewkesbury Borough Council is apparently unable to assist us until the financial position is resolved – somewhere.

1 comment:

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