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Home   Kent   News   Article

Kent highways bosses bring in powers to close roads quickly because of flooding

10 February 2014
by KentOnline reporter

Parts of Kent are on standby for even worse flooding this week - as rivers burst their banks and more rain is predicted to create havoc in low-lying areas.

In villages south of Canterbury, hundreds of homes are on the brink of being flooded by overflowing streams and rivers and rising groundwater levels.

And there are growing fears for the city centre after the Stour broke its banks in several locations.

In total, more than a dozen roads have been shut due to flooding, including some in Wateringbury, Yalding, Ramsgate, and the appropriately named Canute Road in Deal.

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Wickham Lane near Ickham. Jane Bates

Wickham Lane near Ickham. Picture: Jane Bates

But the worst hit communities are near the Nailbourne and Little Stour, where many homeowners are already pumping out.

With more rain forecast, the outlook remains bleak for those who have so far kept the waters at bay.

Environment Agency emergency teams, firefighters and police have been out in force to try and ensure homeowners are safe. 

The Stour has flooded over into the St Radigun's car park in the city centre

The Stour flooded over into the St Radigun's car park in the city centre. File picture

Water is pumped out from flooded areas. Picture Jane Bates

Water is pumped out from flooded areas. File picture: Jane Bates

Police have also been out and about with Kent Community Wardens from Kent County Council, warning residents at risk of flooding.

They have visited properties in areas in Elham, Bridge, Wickhambreaux, Patrixbourne, Barham, Bishopsbourne, Bekesbourne and Littlebourne, checking on residents' safety, providing relevant contact numbers for the various agencies involved, and ensuring those affected had access to sandbags.

Areas in Northgate and Willow Close in Canterbury have suffered some flooding from the River Stour.

Now hundreds of acres of farmland are under water and thousands of sandbags are all that stand in the way of the misery of being flooded out.

And even they may not be enough, because of rapidly rising groundwater levels which forces the water up through floors.

One of the worst hit villages is Bridge, where Brewery Lane has been turned into a river. 

Plucky pensioner Jeanne Tapley, 86, gets a welfare visit from Russell Taylor from the Red Cross and Mary Starrs from the St John Ambulance

Plucky pensioner Jeanne Tapley, 86, gets a welfare visit from Russell Taylor from the Red Cross and Mary Starrs from the St John Ambulance

Environment Agency workers prepare to safeguard Romney Marsh land for farmers

Environment Agency workers prepare to safeguard Romney Marsh land for farmers

Teams have been working around the clock to protect homes but they weren't able to stop the water flooding into the home of 86-year-old Jeanne Tapley, who has lived in her cottage for more than 60 years.

But the plucky pensioner insists she will not be moving out.

Wearing wellies and sat in an armchair raised on bricks in her living room, which was under several inches of water, she said: "I'm not going anywhere.

"I've seen it all before when I was flooded in 2001 and I didn't move then either.

"It's miserable but this time it was anticipated and I moved what I could off the floor and friends put some of my furniture on bricks to raise it up.

"I'll just soldier on because the only way I'm leaving my house is feet first."

She was being checked on by the Red Cross and St John Ambulance whose volunteers are in the village offering support.

The soft ground has caused a giant cedar tree to fall in Ickham

The soft ground has caused a giant cedar tree to fall in Ickham

 
Ickham and Wickhambreaux were among the worst hit. Jane Bates

Ickham and Wickhambreaux were among the worst hit. Picture: Jane Bates

A neighbour who lives a few doors away, Ian Ashton added: "We started sandbagging last weekend because we could see this coming. 

"So far we've kept the water in the street out but the problem is the rising ground water which you can't."

Mr Ashton, 40, who is catering manager at the Pilgrims Hospice, added: "There's nothing you can do but try and protect your things."

"I'll just soldier on because the only way I'm leaving my house is feet first" - Jeanne Tapley

Bridge parish councillor Rob Moon, who is responsible for emergency planning, praised the Environment Agency for its efforts but said it had also brought out the community spirit of the village.

"Everyone is doing what they can do help others, " he said.

There are similar efforts to hold back the floodwaters in surrounding villages and firefighters had to pump out several homes in Patrixbourne.

It was also where a car had to be abandoned after hitting a road closed sign and ending up stuck in deep flood water in Old Palace Road. The vehicle is thought to have been on hire. 

Flood water being pumped out of the Plough and Harrow in Bridge

Flood water being pumped out of the Plough and Harrow in Bridge

Several country lanes around Ickham and Wickhambreaux are now closed because of water pouring off fields.

Police are now urging drivers not to ignore the signs and risk driving through deep water.

At Ickham, the soft ground has caused a huge Lebanese sycamore tree to come crashing down across the entrance to the Old Rectory.

Driver ignores a 'road closed' sign and gets trapped in flood water. Picture @GrittingKent

Driver ignores a 'road closed' sign and gets trapped in flood water. Picture @GrittingKent

Villager James Dixey, said: "If the rain continues we will be fighting a losing battle. Already my elderly neighbour, who is quite frail has had to move out because the water has got into his house.

"Wickhambreaux is slightly lower than us and I fear homes there are even more at risk. But I have to say the Environment Agency is doing a first class job, as is the parish council."

The riverside walk under Rheims Way, Canterbury is impassable

The riverside walk under Rheims Way, Canterbury is impassable

Residents of Littlebourne are also under threat and police have been leafleting homes with advice of what they should do if flooded.

County councillor Michael Northey has been touring the worst affected sites which are all in his south Canterbury ward.

He said: "I have been amazed at the community spirit being shown. The Environment Agency is doing a great job but there is only so much you can do if nature decides to unleash its full fury on you."

Canterbury MP Julian Brazier has also been visiting the flooding black spots and says more needs to be done in the future to help alleviate pressure on homes from the water course. 

Flooded fields creep towards James Dixey's home at Ickham

Flooded fields creep towards James Dixey's home at Ickham

 

Valley Road at Kingston under water

Valley Road at Kingston under water

Jenny Donovan from the Environment Agency, said: "The flooding won't recede fast, because the ground water level is so high and the catchments are so saturated, we're going to see this water stay around for a good number of weeks, if not months.

"So the ground water levels that we're seeing rise in East Kent, the Nailbourne River is now fully flowing and that's causing impacts for people and their property. They're also experiencing ground water coming up through their floorboards into their homes."
 
She added: "The areas we're really putting our attention along with partners are along the Stour, along Little Stour Valley - so towns and villages like Canterbury, Thanington, Kingston, Bridge."
 
One driver at Patrixbourne ignored the 'road closed' sign.

One driver at Patrixbourne ignored the 'road closed' sign.

But the Canterbury area isn't the only one to be hit in Kent.

Environment Agency teams have installed additional pumps on the Union channel and others to help drain land for Romney Marsh farmers.

It comes as three flood warnings remain in force across the county with more rain expected during the week.

The Met Office has issued early yellow warnings for rain on tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

Dozens of roads across the county are closed because of flooding with areas of Canterbury and Maidstone among the worst affected.

Driver ignores a 'road closed' sign and gets trapped in flood water. Picture @GrittingKent

Driver ignores a 'road closed' sign and gets trapped in flood water. Picture @GrittingKent

Motorists are again being urged not to try and attempted to drive through flood water.

Highways bosses in Kent have brought in powers allowing roads to be closed at short notice.

Kent County Council has made an order to temporarily prohibit through traffic on various roads across the county, and allows roads to be closed with little prior notice for indefinite periods.

The closures are needed to deal with flooding, fallen trees, damaged road surfaces and subsidence.

Toby Howe from KCC Highways, said: “We normally have to advertise in a certain time to go through all the legality to show that we’ve got the powers to close it (a road).

“What this does is really give us the instant power because we’re finding flooding or fallen trees.

“Some of the flooded roads we’re having to close for quite some time, especially in the region of the Stour and the Nailbourne at the moment.”

Out Elmsted Lane at Barham is closed

Out Elmsted Lane at Barham is closed

He added: “Please take notice. We don’t just close roads and put these signs out for the fun of it.

“They are there for a reason and there could be a danger.

 

Video: Emergency crews tackle flooding around Canterbury

“When there’s flooded water you don’t actually know what’s in that water, there could be a manhole cover missing for example. That’s why we’re putting those notices out.”


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