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Residents return to Little Venice Caravan Park, Yalding, and surrounding homes after flooding

Hundreds made it back home after being evacuated due to flooding.

Families were forced to flee after torrential rain caused a number of problems across the county, particularly in Yalding, Staplehurst and Marden.

Drone footage of flooding at Yalding. Picture: Hire Vision
Drone footage of flooding at Yalding. Picture: Hire Vision

Emergency crews evacuated 22 people from the Little Venice caravan park in Yalding, where there are 123 properties housing around 200 people.

Firefighters used an inflatable boat to gain access to those who were most at risk and were supported by flood wardens, council workers as well as staff at the park - working in challenging conditions in which the water rose by some six inches throughout Saturday, December 22.

One was taken to temporary accommodation but many others took shelter with friends and family.

Luckily, owner of the site, Albert Lee, ensured everyone was back in their homes by Christmas Eve.

The properties are all on floating pontoons, a system where the caravan rises with the water once it gets above a certain level. This helps keep them above the water to prevent too much damage.

Surveying the flood damage at Little Venice Country Park. L-R: Vinnie, Albert Lee and his son Edward and Frank
Surveying the flood damage at Little Venice Country Park. L-R: Vinnie, Albert Lee and his son Edward and Frank

Mr Lee said: "We are sweeping off some of the roads still but we got everyone back into their properties.

"Now it is all back to normal and they did not lose any of their belongings.

"The floating system is great, getting everyone back in and there has been no damage - it is just marvellous."

To help those affected, Maidstone Borough Council put emergency measures in place to help - including delivering 1,500 sandbags to Yalding, Collier Street and Laddingford, which were expected to be hit worst.

Sweepers were also sent out to clear the area and residents were assured it would provide emergency shelter and help to people if it was required.

Floods at Yalding. Picture: Matthew Walker.
Floods at Yalding. Picture: Matthew Walker.
Yalding a week on from the Christmas floods. Picture: Matthew Walker
Yalding a week on from the Christmas floods. Picture: Matthew Walker

One person was placed into temporary accommodation and is still being housed.

The local authority will be offering the removal of flood damaged goods.

Dates for collection are to be confirmed and those interested should contact their parish council if they need damaged goods removed.

Environment Agency teams also worked hard to reduce the flooding impact by operating sluices and weirs and clearing culverts which allow water to flow under roads and railroads.

It continues to monitor the river levels and rainfall forecasts daily to help assess the impact of the weather.

East Farleigh river levels have returned to normal
East Farleigh river levels have returned to normal

Unfortunately, despite several homes installing metal flood barriers upon the guidance of the Environment Agency, including residents in East Farleigh, their homes still flooded.

Over in Staplehurst, Elaine Mansell, started to worry when she noticed 'effluent bubbling' in the downstairs toilet and a drain cover lifting on her drive way.

After numerous phone calls to Southern Water, engineers finally came out to fix the issue on Christmas Day.

In Marden, chaos erupted when the River Tiese burst its banks and caused a flood plain, leaving many residents concerned for their homes.

For Theresa Gibson, who lives near Gravel Pit Farm, this was the first time she had experienced anything like it.

Flooding in Marden. Picture: Claire Dominic
Flooding in Marden. Picture: Claire Dominic

She said: "Our house was fine and didn't flood but it was a very overwhelming experience. There's nothing you can do but hope you're not affected in anyway.

"We moved into a new build and did extensive research into the flooding through our solicitors and speaking to people that lived in that locality for years before purchasing.

"The conclusion was it would take a major disaster for our house to actually flood.

"But when you get an early morning call from the Environment Agency telling you there is a flood alert it's a bit worrying."

Ms Gibson said her neighbours had moved furniture upstairs in preparation.

The area has been earmarked for mass development, with around 2,000 homes planned, but this is something Ms Gibson is worried about.
She added: "Surely these ongoing issues should be resolved before the local planners, developers and local authorities build further houses. How can everyday people keep telling the stories of the disasters, yet it falls on deaf ears. It just seems like madness to me.

"It makes me angry as these builders build homes in areas that are at risk, or potentially by building in areas that are natural water soakaways, force the water to take different routes. Meaning houses that have never flooded become victims of flooding.

"Yet Maidstone Borough Council go ahead with these plans to further compound the issues."

An open water swimmer, Jackie Cobell, took to the flood water in Hartlake Road, Tudeley, to highlight the risks of building homes on floodplains.

Jackie Cobell swam in flood water on Hartlake Road
Jackie Cobell swam in flood water on Hartlake Road

June Chapman and her husband Tim, of Lees Road, Yalding, managed to avoid a repeat of the flooding in 2013, which cost the couple more than £150,000 to repair.

Despite having what they call a ‘skirt’ around their house made of black plastic sheeting, the water level rose so high that year it went over the barrier and into their house, ruining their ground floor.

The family decided to convert the bottom floor into an art studio - Riverside Gallery - and only live on the top two floors of their home, so in the event it floods, the devastation is minimised.

Mrs Chapman said: “The whole bottom floor can be sacrificed, I don’t want to but it can be if necessary. I’ve learned lessons and got more wellies than I know what to do with.”

The pair have also installed pumps and a generator in case they are trapped inside.

June Chapman with her house skirt
June Chapman with her house skirt

Their flood plan worked and the couple, who also run the Post Office, were able to stay in their home this Christmas and prevent water getting inside.

Pensioner Lois Mitchell had around half a foot of water inside her garage and porch entrance at her home in Acott Fields, Yalding, which backs on to the River Beult.

She, along with several neighbours, had to use pumps to clear the flood out.

Mrs Mitchell said: “It was exhausting more than anything because we weren’t sleeping properly. You don’t realise how stressed you get until after the event.”

At its peak, she said the water reached the steps to her back door and was waist high in her shed.

Flooding in Lois Mitchell's garden in Yalding
Flooding in Lois Mitchell's garden in Yalding

Despite small pockets of residual flood water, roads in Yalding, which were badly flooded, have now reopened and villagers are able to freely access their homes.
Previously submerged parks and green spaces near Hampstead Lane are now starting to reappear as the water subsides.

There are no longer flood warnings in place for the county.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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