Sunday, 3 August 2008

Floods: "Apparent Lack of Action"

The most viewed article in the electronic version of the Witney Gazette this week was an article written by David Horne
"I don't want to have to go to my insurers with yet another very expensive bill," said Terry Siddall

A MAN whose home was flooded in July last year has highlighted the 'apparent lack of action' to prevent it happening again.

77-year-old Terry Siddall suffered damage running to more than £50,000 when water poured into his house at New Found Out Farm, near Hailey. Four other cottages were also flooded, with families moved out to temporary accommodation.

He has had a barrier ramp built at the entrance to the farmyard properties, but is still fighting to solve the source of the problem, blocked ditches and highways drains. He said: "I've seen plenty of words about what needs to be done since last July, but it's action that's needed. There seems to have been no apparent action about the problems here."

Mr Siddall's home is adjacent to the B4022 Witney to Charlbury road on a hill coming down from Finstock. In heavy rain, the road becomes awash with water and, within the last two months, became impassable when it collected at a dip just past his home.

Floodwater last summer also poured into the farmyard from surrounding fields.

Mr Siddall, who has lived at New Found Out Farm since the 1960s, said: "It is well-known that ditches on both sides of the B4022 and the road to Ramsden have not been maintained over the years, and they have been allowed by the landowners to deteriorate.

"I am naturally worried that all these properties will flood again unless proper maintenance is carried out. I don't want to have to go to my insurers with yet another very expensive bill."

More than 1,600 properties received flooding of various levels in West Oxfordshire last July, and about 80 are still vacant while repairs are carried out.

In the post-flood analysis, the Environment Agency and county and district councils agreed that much of the damage was not caused by rivers bursting their banks, but ditches overflowing because of poor maintenance.

Although inspections have been carried out, and action plans are being drawn up for all 80 of the district's parishes, it is conceded that the work is taking a long time.

Lawrence King, action principal engineer for West Oxfordshire District Council, said: "In many cases, it is a shared responsibility between landowners and the highways authority. Land searches to find out ownership is a long process, and not always clear. Where we can establish responsibility, we contact them to clear out ditches, and assist run-off. This is taking time.

"In Mr Siddall's case, we can see that grips, or channels, from the road need to be properly maintained to take water away, and that ditches need to be cleared."

The problem at New Found Out Farm would, added Mr King, be highlighted in the flood report due to be published on Hailey parish.

An officer from the county council's highways department visited Mr Siddall to assess what work needs to be done.

He himself has suggested using adjoining fields as run-off areas to take water from the road and away from nearby homes. But agreement is still needed from landowners.

Witney MP David Cameron was on Friday meeting residents in Milton-under-Wychwood, as well as the Witney Flood Action Group over continuing concerns about repeat flooding.

29th July 2008

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