Rain relents but the water is still rising
Floods have continued to wreak havoc across the West with communities either mopping up after the weekend’s deluge or bracing themselves for rising water levels.
In Wiltshire, residents began the task of clearing out flood-damaged furniture, while in Somerset firefighters battled to save an entire housing estate from rising water.
And last night in Gloucester, there were real concerns the outskirts of the city itself could see scenes like the huge disaster of 2007, after the River Severn burst its banks and flooded a massive swathe of land to the north of the city.
The biggest drama of the day happened on the Locking Castle estate near Weston-super-Mare, where firefighters brought in beefed-up pumping equipment to pump out rising water from a pond on the edge of the estate, which became a lake over the weekend and then spread up roads and gardens and threatened to flood more than 60 homes. The firefighters battled for much of the day and managed to save the homes from flooding, by sending the water more than a mile and a half away to safety.
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Elsewhere in Somerset, landslips once again brought rail services to a halt, but across the region, it was a drier day than any from the previous week, and water levels on the whole went down.
But the village of Muchelney was living up to the meaning of its Saxon name of Big Island last night, homes in the village near Langport flooded after the river Parrett was reported to have burst its banks. Jim Woodborn said: “I’ve lived here for 73 and a half years, and the water is a foot higher than I have ever known.” His home had not flooded last night but neighbour Elizabeth Nightingale was not so lucky. Water was 1ft deep in her 300-year-old house. “We are staying put because we have animals,” she said.
The Environment Agency, for the first time since last Tuesday, had no severe flood warnings across the entire West region, as severe warnings were downgraded to warnings, and warnings downgraded to alerts.
But the huge amount of water in the West’s rivers moved downstream yesterday, so on the River Avon in Wiltshire, the levels which saw Malmesbury flood on Sunday meant levels in Bradford on Avon rose again, while the River Severn which cut off Tewkesbury and flooded homes in the north of Gloucestershire threatened the city of Gloucester further south.
Last night, drivers in Gloucestershire were being urged to drive with care as “significant flooding” is still affecting the county’s roads.
Main roads into and out of Gloucester were closed at rush hour yesterday, bringing chaos and congestion to those roads still open. The Severn at Tewkesbury was expected to peak at 4.8m – a metre lower than the levels back in 2007 – with that high water mark coming overnight in the early hours of this morning.
Drivers in Gloucestershire have been ignoring warnings of closed roads, said Insp Jason Keates. “We cannot stress strongly enough the importance of adhering to these road closures.”
Yesterday, the clean-up got under way in Malmesbury, where many homes were flooded in the historic High Street and St John’s Street area. Tracey Tucker, whose rescue from an upstairs window by firefighters came early on Sunday morning, was back at her house clearing out flood-damaged furniture, carpets and appliances, into communal skips.
“It’s pretty much a clean-up operation now,” said Malmesbury fire station watch manager Chris Harvey.
Elsewhere in Malmesbury, questions are being asked about the Environment Agency’s response to planning applications, which have left new homes built close to the now-swollen River Avon.
Last year plans for 77 new homes in Park Road, alongside the River Avon on the edge of the town, were submitted by developers and the Environment Agency did not object – even though the road and the entrance to the site has been under several feet of water for the past week.
Now the developers, who lost on appeal earlier this year, have returned for another application, and calls are growing for the Environment Agency to step in. “Hopefully the planners and developers will get the hint now,” said local resident Will Allbrook.
A spokesman for the agency said: “Unfortunately, the Agency is just an advisory body to planning authorities and if a planning application comes in, all we can do is make a recommendation or offer advice, so our role is limited.”