Living in fear

PUBLISHED: 12:03 17 August 2006 | UPDATED: 11:59 04 May 2010

PEOPLE are living in fear of the catastrophic effects of future flash-floods - and more must be done to protect them. The warning comes from worried Ely councillors who have demanded action to save homes and businesses from being flooded with raw sewage,

PEOPLE are living in fear of the catastrophic effects of future flash-floods - and more must be done to protect them.

The warning comes from worried Ely councillors who have demanded action to save homes and businesses from being flooded with raw sewage, which left them facing clean-up bills running into thousands of pounds.

County and district councillors Nigel Bell and Simon Higginson made their plea in a letter to county council officers after East Cambridgeshire's drains struggled to cope with the torrential rain.

They warned that increasingly volatile weather will make the floods a regular fixture of East Cambridgeshire life.

"With climate change occurring, we cannot take the view that these thunderstorms were simply a freak event," Cllr Bell said.

"The fact that this flooding has already happened several times would indicate this isn't the case - residents must not have to live in fear of this happening again."

Cllr Bell said the county council may ultimately need to look into upgrading the drainage system to cope with more frequent storms, but that short-term solutions should be the first priority.

Cllrs Bell and Higginson wrote: "I would also hope some provision could be made in the meantime in the event of more thunderstorms, such as arranging with the police for roads to be closed when flooding occurs, in order to prevent cars exacerbating the damage caused, and the offer of sandbags to residents in properties likely to be affected."

Cllr Bell has called for more thorough reviews and checks of the drainage system.

Anglian Water and Cambridgeshire County Council have said the effects of the flooding were the result of exceptional weather, and that reports suggest the storms were a "one in every 100 years" occurrence.

A spokesman from Cambridgeshire County Council ruled out a significant upgrade of the drainage infrastructure.

"The only way we would be able to deal with the kind of extreme weather that caused flooding all over the eastern region would be to put in huge, American-style storm drains that would have wide environmental and financial implications," he said.

"We are investigating the causes of the flooding and we will be asking Anglian Water for the results of their investigations. But it really is the case that no matter what we do, we would not be able to cope with that level of rainfall.

"We know there is strong evidence to suggest that we will have more unpredictable weather as a result of climate change, but the rain that caused the flooding was a record amount of water - the worst for 30 years - falling in a short space of time."

The message offers scarce comfort to residents across East Cambridgeshire, many of whom are still paying the price for the storms. Stretham resident Ian Stewart said his Chapel Street home was flooded because of a blocked drain.

"The old excuse was rolled out - that being extreme conditions," he said.

"This flooding has been getting progressively worse as time has moved on."

He said although the council responded quickly with sandbags and drain clearance measures, future actions should be "more preventative and less reactive".

Cllr Bell said he hopes to open a debate on the issue that will lead to more robust action being taken.

n AN Ely Standard website poll has revealed that 59 per cent of residents believe the recent flash-floods are a result of too much development in East Cambs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Visit www.ely-standard.co.uk to register your vote now.

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