Sunday, 29 June 2008

Flooding in Northmoor - A resident writes ...

Being a resident of Northmoor I attended the Council Meeting on July 19th and was as surprised and appalled at the conduct and outcome of the meeting as were so many others who have contributed to this blog. In particular I want to add my support to the notion that the first vote rightly and properly overturned the motion before the committee, The second vote was therefore irrelevant and improper in its presentation to the committee by the chairman.

To be clear and to the point I have a vested interest in stopping the Stonehenge development going ahead. This is not a NIMBY thing. In fact when I bought my house in Northmoor twenty years ago I was aware of the possibility of the extension of the then existing gravel workings. It was in the County Council’s plan as a potential site for future development and I was quite prepared to accept that and went ahead with the purchase. What I didn’t know then but have discovered since is the accelerating risk of both the frequency and the severity of local flooding.

In fact my house has not flooded in all the time we’ve been here. According to long term residents of the village it hasn’t flooded since it was built in 1935. But I have noticed that the local flooding has got more frequent and deeper year by year (witness the Maybush Inn). These days a heavy rainfall leaves large puddles in our field which can take a week or more to drain away. This is also evident in several fields between the village and the river where new semi-permanent ponds are forming. This never happened a few years ago. Similarly the bridleway behind Mount Pleasant is regularly wet during the winter, as expected, but has had standing water throughout this year. Why should that be?

The way I see it we have two problems which together put the Northmoor community at increased risk of flooding. One is the woeful state of the historic drainage systems in our local area. The other is the impact of the massive amount of gravel extraction which has taken place.
In twenty years the Thames has burst its banks most winters. The flood bank which might protect the village is in a sorry state of repair and is breached so that the areas which it should protect are regularly flooded. The ditches are not maintained and therefore can’t drain water to the river and the Thames itself, which when we moved to the village was regularly dredged by Thames Conservancy, is now, as far as I am aware, never cleared. Does this sound like an accident waiting to happen?

Well, the accident happened in July last year. A few hours of seriously heavy rain and the disaster started. The results are well documented elsewhere on this site.

We were lucky. No water in the house but our field, garden and drive were flooded for the first time ever. The main drains flooded and backed up and we were without a loo for a week. We had to prepare to move furniture and ourselves upstairs. We moved the horses to dry land and dogs to friends outside the flood risk area. (Dog’s don’t do their business in floods - or upstairs in my house!) Do I believe that the severity of the flooding was in any way due to gravel extraction and that further digging will make things worse? You bet I do.

My elderly neighbours have lived in their house for forty eight years. Like us, they had never flooded – until last July. They managed to stay in their house but their downstairs rooms were under water for a week. By a miracle their summerhouse was not flooded and they could (literally) wade across their drive and, ironically, enjoy the sun which followed those few hours of rain. However they were extremely upset by the disruption, uncertainty and damage and emotionally drained by the whole experience. Do they believe that the severity of the flooding was in any way due to gravel extraction and that further digging will make things worse? You bet they do.

Climate change happens – it’s a global issue. Gravel extraction happens – it’s a local issue. Will new workings at Stonehenge Farm exacerbate the chances of future flooding in Northmoor in the face of further climate change? You bet they will.

Can anyone in Hanson’s or the Environment Agency persuade me or my neighbours that extracting gravel from Stonehange Farm site will not increase the risk of flooding in Northmoor. Fat chance.

Sent in by Peter Winder, Resident of Northmoor

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