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New Romney residents call on Environment Agency to help restore neglected waterway behind homes in Churchlands

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Residents are calling on the Environment Agency (EA) to help restore flora and fauna along a neglected waterway behind their homes.

The channel, which used to flow behind homes in New Romney, now sits stagnant and unsanitary, according to homeowners in Churchlands.

Louise Wright says she is hoping those with authority will be able to help her and her neighbours get the course back to a standard that can be regularly maintained by residents.

The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754153)
The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754153)

The ditch is designed to collect surface water run-off when it rains, so that it can be eventually discharged through the watercourse network and eventually to the sea.

The approach to the water lies at the bottom of the 52-year-old’s garden.

She said: “It used to be beautiful. But now the water can’t flow. It just stinks.”

The bank is partially accessible next to the bridge over the water and Mrs Wright said that this is where rubbish is usually tossed in by passers-by.

She said: “They use it as a dumping ground. Because no one takes any consideration to it, everyone disrespects it even more. We don’t help ourselves by not providing bins.”

Mrs Wright believes more places dispose of rubbish properly will immediately reduce the amount thrown in the water, but she is hoping EA officers can lend their expertise first.

According to Mrs Wright, riparian rights apply along the course, meaning she is responsible for the area covered by the width of her house. It is a system for allocating water among those who possess land along its path.

But she says although the EA have visited in the past, she believes it’s now time to up the ante. She said: “We need some assistance and we need the proper kit. We need bodies and people to help us. You can’t get in it - it’s too silted up.”

The EA is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, established in 1996 to protect and improve the environment in England.

Mrs Wright, who has lived in the town for more than two years, added that some people aren’t aware of the danger the water poses, and she often spots people sat on the banks: “At some stage, one of them will go in. If they did, they wouldn’t get out without emergency help. They would end up in hospital.”

Louise Wright who lives in Churchlands (8003046)
Louise Wright who lives in Churchlands (8003046)

Despite the deep sludge and muck that has reportedly built up over time, Mrs Wright has not lost hope for the area’s revival, as she has seen wildlife such as toads and moorhens visit her garden: “Last year, we had a family of ducks... But actually, we shouldn’t be the only ones seeing that. It would be nice if we could have that all of the time and if people in the community could see that too.”

The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754159)
The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754159)

An Environment Agency spokesman said that, while they only have flood risk responsibilities for the watercourse, they are ‘very open’ to arranging a meeting to discuss options.

He said: “We have permissive powers to manage flood risk on main rivers. On the New Romney Main Sewer, we manage this risk through annual strimming of the banks. We have an ongoing programme of desilting across the area and this watercourse is programmed to be desilted next winter. We also have plans to repair a culvert under the station road in April.

“We would like to work with the community and other partners to improve the habitat. It would be a good opportunity to help the community and interested groups understand the watercourse and how they can help look after it.

“We would welcome a meeting to discuss these issues further and look for opportunities for us to work together and improve the environment. They are welcome to get in touch and we will be happy to advise.”

The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754165)
The dirty waterway in Churchlands, New Romney (7754165)

Ward councillor Susie Govett said: “We have lined up equipment and help from Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) to help the EA. Local volunteers do an amazing job clearing litter but access to this spot is challenging so professionals are needed.

“It’s extremely frustrating because everyone works so hard to try and make our area a nice place to live but this is a blight on local residents and the town and with the recent focus on the damage to wildlife caused by plastics it cannot be right that this continues."

“I have asked the cabinet member for environment if FHDC will install a bin, which should help in terms of prevention, if they agree.”

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