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Dorset Floods: Rain and recrimination push forward a rising tide of anger

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

Rugby pitches under the viaduct at Limpley Stoke, near Bath

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As the clear-up begins again today, there is increasing anger at the authorities – from local council highways departments to the Environment Agency – for not doing more work to clear ditches, gutters, drains and gullies to stop heavy rain turning to flood misery.

One West MP even talked about the need to call in the troops to help deal with long-term flooding problems on the Somerset Levels, while from Martock to Malmesbury, homes and businesses were dealing with yet more deluges and muddy water lapping above skirting boards.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said he had briefed both the Defra minister Owen Patterson and the Prime Minister’s office about the state of flooding in Somerset, and said that while such extreme help was not needed from national Government just yet – they were on standby.

“I have made sure that both Owen and the Prime Minister are well aware of the severity of the problems on the Levels and in West Somerset, and I have sought assurances that should extra resources, be that manpower for the Environment Agency, more equipment or calling in the troops to assist, then these will be forthcoming,” he said.

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Nearby, in Martock, district councillor Patrick Palmer criticised the county highways department for failing to heed warnings about blocked ditches and gullies that caused flooding. “The water has simply run off Foldhill Lane into East Street, and into people’s homes,” he said.

Yesterday, Elspeth Sinclair, 63, was one of the residents left mopping up and clearing out destroyed carpets and linos from yet another flood. “It flooded there just a few years ago, and we asked then for those ditches to be cleared. Nothing was done and exactly the same thing has happened again,” added the councillor.

Further north, Peter King, chairman of East Harptree Parish Council, said he is “sick to death” with “disgusting inaction” at Bath and North East Somerset Council.

After the village was left under water in May, the district council promised flood defence work, which Mr King says has never been done.

“I’ve given up so much of my time to show them what needs to be done but it’s all been a waste.”

The farmer and agricultural engineer and four workers were up to their knees in water on Wednesday as they used jackhammers and a digger to knocked down a wall to drain water from part of the village, whose cemetery had been flooded.

“I had a woman call me up in tears yesterday after the floods hit her home. Her husband’s disabled and she didn’t know what to do,” he said.

“The village flooded yesterday and it’ll probably flood again tonight,” he said yesterday.

In Wiltshire, flood waters rose all along the River Avon from Malmesbury to Bradford on Avon, with roads closed again. In Corston, near Malmesbury, the landlady of the Radnor Arms described how she had to call out to carpet fitters to abandon their work replacing carpets destroyed in a flood less than three weeks ago, when the waters rose again.

Paula Webley said: “It was an absolute nightmare, it still is. I can’t see we’ll be open by Christmas now, and we’re expecting it to flood again overnight. We’ve got to resolve this problem. People who’ve lived in this village for decades are saying they’ve never known this pub to flood once before, and now it’s happened twice in the same month. It comes in through the walls, so sandbags are useless.”

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