FOR the victims of flooded Essex, the past two summers have been devastating.
Hundreds of families in Rochford, Rayleigh, and on Canvey have been faced with massive clean-up bills and, in the worst cases, been left homeless.
Streets and gardens have been turned into rivers, properties swamped by flash flooding, and the cost of repairing the damage has run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
One family was made homeless twice in six months.
Those living in constant fear of another deluge have been asking one question: What is being done to protect us.
Now, it seems, residents are finally being listened to.
Rochford District Council is leading an alliance of authorities responsible for flooding and water management in tackling the issues.
The first meeting of the Forum for Surface Water Flooding Issues revealed what is being done.
Representatives from the council, Essex County Council, Anglian Water and Essex Highways were all there to discuss preventative schemes.
With so many parties responsible for various bits of pipework and land, it is easy to see how some areas can be forgotten.
But it was clear residents attending the meeting – and the thousands who could not attend – will not accept any excuses.
They want to live safe in the knowledge that all precautions are being taken to ensure they will not be flooded again.
The district council has £18,000 to spend on flood prevention schemes, and that cash will be match-funded by Essex County Council. County Hall has pledged up to £50,000, provided Rochford District Council can do the same.
Crucially, progress is already being made on issues highlighted at the meeting.
For example, Rochford District Council has set aside £8,000 to dig a relief ditch for ten houses in Blower Close, Rayleigh, which regularly flood.
Keith Hudson, deputy leader of Rochford District Council and former councillor for planning, said: “Those houses should never have been built there in the way they had been.
“It was 30 or 40 years ago, way before this administration’s time, but the people have been suffering ever since.
“An 18-inch pipe goes down to a six-inch pipe through their gardens and it cannot cope.
“We are proposing to dig the ditch for the residents, who will then be responsible for its maintenance.”
Another issue on Mr Hudson and the council’s agenda is payment for work.
Essex County Council can force landowners to carry out maintenance and then claim the money back, something the district authority cannot.
Following discussions, Essex County Council’s legal department has been approached to investigate handing some power back to the district council.
The issue specifically relates to willow tree roots in a privatelyowned ditch in Laburnham Way, Rayleigh, which have overgrown and reduced the capacity of the ditch by 75 per cent.
It means the house opposite is now regularly at risk of flooding.
Mr Hudson said: “We need to cut the trees down, remove the roots and clear the ditch.
“It would cost £10,000 to £12,000, but when the house opposite floods it costs tens of thousands of pounds.
“The county council has a backlog of work but if they could enforce the landowner to do it themselves, or we pay for it knowing the county council can claim it back, then it would get done much sooner.
“We cannot force the landowner to do it because they know we don’t have the power to claim it back from them. But it needs to be done urgently because in six months the whole ditch will be blocked by roots.”
The flood forum won’t be able to wave a magic wand and solve all Rochford’s flood issues.
However, Mr Hudson is determined to make the small changes that will have a significant impact on people’s lives.
Mr Hudson added: “The forum has done a lot already and will do a lot more.
“We are not going to replace all the drainage in Rayleigh – that is never going to happen. It cannot happen because you would need to demolish all the housing as well.
“But the forum is about doing small things which mean big things to lots of people.”
A second meeting of the forum will be held at the Civic Suite, Rayleigh, on October 1 at 4pm.
AUTHORITIES’ HIT LIST: WHERE ACTION IS BEING TAKEN
There has been maintenance work to the existing drainage and ditch. The landowner’s been contacted about additional works.
Anglian Water has run pipes through open ditch and residents say this has been successful.
District council is to appoint a company for ditch clearance.
BENEATH RAILWAY BRIDGE IN SPA ROAD, HOCKLEY
The gullies have been cleared and Essex County Council will ensure regular maintenance.
BENEATH THE BRIDGE IN HALL ROAD, ROCHFORD
There was a problem with one of the gullies, which has now been replaced. The other gullies have been cleared of blockages.
RECTORY ROAD, HAWKWELL This will be put on the county Council’s maintenance schedule.
BENEATH THE RAILWAY BRIDGE IN CHURCH ROAD, HOCKLEY
Gullies have been cleared and the county council will use a water jet to remove any blockages.
KINGSMEAD COTTAGES, BARLING
A contractor will dig out the ditch, and there is a meeting planned with landowners.
SALEM WALK AND FAIRMEAD
Anglian Water has cleared ditches and vegetation.
It, the Environment Agency and the landowner are discussing further maintenance of this important storm sewer.
WESTMINSTER DRIVE, HOCKLEY
Rochford District Council has cleared a section of ditch. The remainder will be cleared by the landowner.
RIVERSIDE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE AND THE HORSE AND GROOM PUB
The Environment Agency is responsible and this is being discussed with them.
LABURNHAM WAY, RAYLEIGH
Rochford District Council has made the landowner aware of problems with the ditch.
Work is done on a regular basis to prevent silt building up in the inlet to the reservoir. This will be incorporated into the Sweyne Park maintenance contract.
BLOWER CLOSE, RAYLEIGH Work being done to clear a grille and reinstate ditches at Turret Open Space, to ease problems.
Residents have cleared two road drains.
Gullies to be cleared. The need for regular maintenance was discussed at the forummeeting.
Anglian Water is doing a survey.
FAIRLAND CLOSE, RAYLEIGH
Essex County Council and Anglian Water has been made aware of issues. Anglian Water will carry out a CCTV survey.
WARWICK ROAD/WARWICK CLOSE, RAYLEIGH
Problem seems to be occurring where the new resurfaced road meets the old road. Essex County Council is investigating.
A collapsed drain is being repaired by the county council.
Most gullies have been cleared.
Anglian Water is investigating issues with the main sewer.
NEAR CORNHILL AVENUE, HOCKLEY
A landowner is responsible for a grille/screen which protects one of Anglian Water’s pipes.
Hockley Parish Council is responsible for the ditch through Maryland’s Open Space and is taking steps to maintain it.
SIRWALTER RALEIGHCLOSE, RAYLEIGH
Anglian Water is investigating.
RAYLEIGH WEIR UNDERPASS AND EASTWOOD BROOK
Concerns have been raised about the arrangements for pumping water from the underpass when flooded. Eastwood Brook is a major ditch and most of it is the responsibility of the landowners.
SHAKESPE AREAVENUE/ GROVEROAD, RAYLEIGH
There have been problems with a stormwater drain blowing.
Rochford District Council and Anglian Water will investigate.
CANTERBURY CLOSE, RAYLEIGH; WYBURNS AVENUE EAST, RAYLEIGH; VERNON AVENUE, RAYLEIGH; KIMBERLEY ROAD, GREAT WAKERING
These areas will be reviewed.
PUMP STATIONS AT ETHELDORE AVENUE AND WOOD AVENUE
Developer of the Etheldore estate will be asked to resolve the situation.