Special Report: Warning of flooding in Long Bennington made four years ago
The Journal can reveal that warnings of floods in Long Bennington were made four years ago in a report commissioned by South Kesteven District Council.
The report, conducted by environmental and engineering consultants Amec in November 2011, repeatedly warns about the village’s vulnerability to sewerage flooding.
It stresses no development should take place in the village until the problem is resolved, and yet figures obtained by the Journal show that 83 houses were built in Long Bennington between April 2009 and March 2014, with consents for another 57 also given.
The focus on this detailed report comes after the village suffered serious flooding following heavy rainfall on August 24, devastating homes and forcing some owners out until Christmas. And although not as extreme, there have been numerous flooding incidents in recent years, with some streets ending up submerged in several inches of water.
The report states: “All development in Long Bennington is subject to a minimum five-year delay to resolve the sewerage constraint. Any additional development, even small scale, in Long Bennington will increase the risk of, and be vulnerable to, sewer flooding until the strategic solution is implemented and so would be inadvisable.”
It adds, in red type to highlight the issue: “This is not simply a site specific problem. The whole of Long Bennington is vulnerable to sewer flooding and a strategic solution is required. All parties should be made aware of this situation when considering planning applications.”
At a village parish council meeting on Monday it was decided representatives from all the authorities involved should be called to a public meeting to answer questions.
County, district and parish councillor Paul Wood said in the wake of the storm the village “looked like a warzone”. He said: “We want a full investigation into the drainage system in the village. We can’t let this happen again. We need a public meeting.”
While he accepted that the rainfall was “exceptional” with 48mm falling in 90 minutes, Coun Wood added: “Even if it was it’s a lot worse if the drains are partially blocked or maintenance hasn’t been done. The drainage is not adequate for the village, and I know there’s been a lot of applications and everybody’s just piped on to what’s existing there already. What maintenance has Anglian Water done over the years? I think very little. And do they know what the actual drainage is in the village? I don’t think they do.”
He called for representatives from Anglian Water, Severn Trent, LCC, SKDC and the Environment Agency to attend the public meeting. “There are several authorities that have got responsibilities and when that happens they tend to blame one another,” he said.
Chairman of the parish council Gareth Dawkins said: “I think the flash flooding has highlighted a variety of different issues – including the lack of capacity, Anglian Water not knowing what their assets are, and the drains being potentially blocked.
“I’m slightly worried they will try and hide behind saying if they clear the drains out everything’s alright. That’s just plain wrong. There needs to be a root and branch appraisal of the drainage situation.”
Fellow councillor Mick Walker said: “People weren’t just flooded by rain falling on the ground. The drains took as much as they could, but then it was bubbling out of drains for four or five hours afterwards. On Welbournes Lane fire engines were pumping it into the river for six-and-a-half hours. There are areas that flood with just a shower. There is a serious problem.”
In response, an SKDC spokesman said the Amec report was commissioned to “guide planning matters on sewerage and surface water in communities in the district, not precluding development in Long Bennington but advising of potential constraints”. He added: “It is used as technical evidence for the Site Allocation and Policies DPD and it will form part of the evidence base in preparing the new Local Plan including the determination of the location of new sites for development when that plan comes forward for consultation.
“Whilst it may provide some measure of guidance on surface water drainage, the disposal of foul water via the existing sewer system remains within the remit of the relevant local water companies which locally are Anglian Water and Severn Trent Water. Subsequent advice from these parties has fed into planning decisions which resulted in some applications being approved in Long Bennington since 2011.”
* ‘I had to climb out of the window’
Among those hit by the flooding was Sue Winter, a Vicarage Lane resident for 32 years. Damage throughout her ground floor means the family are now confined upstairs and unable to cook in the house.
“It is devastating,” she said. “We will have to move out when they do the work. It’s still drying out and we’ve still got the dehumidifiers in. My granddaughter won’t come in the house. My eldest daughter had just dropped the grandchildren off for a week’s holiday with us and within three hours of them arriving we were climbing out of the front window. It entered the house from all directions and I was upstairs hiding with the grandchildren.”
Furthermore Mrs Winter suspects new developments have had an effect. “We’ve never flooded our side before,” she said. “There is a lot of building and the building has aggravated it. When we first moved into the house we had fields at the back, and fields in front of us. There’s now housing estates both front and back. I think it’s quite telling.”
She also has concerns over whether sewage water also entered the property. “Anglian Water have denied that there would have been any sewage in the water, but we couldn’t use the toilets. There was no solid waste but I firmly believe there was something,” she added.
Another resident confirmed that he had seen water bubbling out of a manhole, and said: “It didn’t come into the homes as far as I know but it did come out of that and clearly mixed in with the rest of the floodwater.”
Main Road resident John Nourrish said: “People opposite me were saying that their toilets were backing up.” He, too, has seen extensive damage to his ground floor. “We’d been away for the weekend, with two small children, and saw the fire engines in the middle of the village as we came home. I opened my front door and there was a pool of water waiting to meet me. A drain in my neighbour’s driveway alongside my wall had backed up from the road, then backed up into my garden and came through the conservatory, living room and out the front door. Insurance have given me a quote in the region of £3,000.”
Among the residents who previously warned about the potential impact of developments is Jacob Florijn, of Sparrow Lane. He repeatedly told the district and county council how after a development at the former Long Bennington Carriages factory, water had been running from it and down Sparrow Lane, which was also flooded during the storm.
Moreover, his neighbour, Ruth Tytherley, is concerned about future developments. She said: “The Royal Oak was particularly badly effected, as were the houses either side; all flooded including a listed property. This is exactly where an application has gone in to build more houses and a road which will just add to the huge and very serious problem.”
* Anglian Water and LCC respond
An Anglian Water spokesman said: “We are aware that there are issues with flooding in Long Bennington. Anglian Water is one of a number of agencies responsible for flooding and drainage issues in this area and we work closely with SKDC and LCC.
“Following on from the report published in 2011, we have carried out work on the local sewage system, which we are responsible for, including re-lining of pipes and removing tree roots.
“Although we are not a statutory consultee on planning applications, we seek to make comments and recommendations on all developments of 10 or more houses.”
She added: “The last work we have done in Long Bennington was on Main Road. The surface water sewer here was jetted in January and lined in February.”
Lincolnshire County Council, as the lead local flood authority, said it is investigating and hopes to submit a report of its findings to the flood and drainage management scrutiny committee when it meets in December.