Chertsey and the floods - an update

Malcolm Loveday is the Chairman of The Chertsey Society. Here's his update to the flooding experienced by this local community earlier in 2014

I was given the opportunity to present evidence to the SCC Flood Task Group in  August 2014 and the following is part of the submission presented to the Group on behalf of The Chertsey Society and as a member of ThamesAwash.

In the recent floods (January /February 2014) volunteers helped to fill sandbags and transfer emergency provisions in Chertsey. The Chertsey Bourne has only a response time of 12 hours from a heavy rainstorm in the Bagshot / Virginia Water area before the Chertsey Town Centre is flooded. Fortunately in Jan / Feb 2014 The Bourne did not flood badly and remedial work undertaken by the EA meant that relatively few houses were flooded in the town centre, except those in Eastworth Road, Chertsey which were badly affected by the sewers backing up.

The photographs show the outstanding community response to help those adversely affected by the floods.

Community2

It should be noted that many people are still not back in their properties and it was reported in July at the RBC Flood Task Group meeting that 60 resident are still evacuated, but that was presumably the figure for people in Local Authority housing and is probably a gross under estimate if the private sector is included.

Many local business were affected, both by directly being flooded and by the indirect impact on the disruption to the transport infrastructure – roads closed and customer base being inaccessible.

Volunteer Response

The Churches in Chertsey & Egham Hythe stepped into a leadership vacuum and offered their buildings as coordination centres since Chertsey Hall and The Hythe Centre were shut by Runnymede Borough Council. In Chertsey, social media ( Facebook, Linked-In & Twitter) grossly exaggerated the scale of the inundation and as a consequence we were overwhelmed by volunteer helpers from all round the country. People came from places such as Birmingham & Yorkshire (International Rescue). In Egham Hythe strong support was provided by Ammadyiah Community (Muslims) from London and Sikhs came from Slough.

Environment Agency ( EA) Flood Warnings

Despite the three day advance warning from the Environment Agency, most householders either were not on the EA Telephone warning system, or refused to believe the magnitude predicted flood level. Many homeowners only realised
12 hours in advance that their properties would be flooded, particularly in Egham Hythe.

Suggestions

1 Emergency Flood Plans & Maps - Separate Emergency Flood Response Plans for each specific locality, i.e. Towns, Villages & Communities (Addlestone, Chertsey, Egham, Egham Hythe, Hamm Court, Laleham Reach /
Penton Park, Pooley Green, Thorpe etc.) should be available as a downloadable pdf. This should include a map with roads that have been flooded in previous events. In Chertsey separate maps should be made available covering The
Bourne , Medlake Ditch & The Thames. Local Emergency Flood plans should also include identified areas for safe car parking for those houses in roads likely to be flooded. Thorpe Park kindly provided safe parking for residents on Laleham Reach.

2 Flood Wardens - A list of Flood Wardens, for each road, or group of approximately 25 dwellings, should be maintained and updated every 6 months. It is essential that the wardens are on the EA Alert system and are trained to understand the various levels of warnings. Phone contact & e-mail cascade lists should be prepared.

RBC / SCC should maintain and regularly update (at 6 month intervals) the contact list. There should be a primary contact and a secondary contact for each zone ( ~ 25 houses) just in case the primary contact is unobtainable.

For roads having a Neighbourhood Watch scheme a cascade system for distribution of warnings, consideration should be given using the same system for Flood warnings.

Chertsey -aquadam2

3 Sandbags - A large amount of volunteer effort was expended in filling and delivering sandbags, despite the fact that it is questionable whether sand bags are any help in an area where flooding results from a rise in the level of the water table. A sand bag barrier in front of houses in a road such as Free Prae Road, Chertsey can be effective in preventing a bow wave & back-wash from vehicles driving down the road lapping over the threshold of houses.

However sandbags need to be properly used in conjunction with a polythene membrane to seal up air bricks or doorways and householders need an information sheet providing guidance. It would be interesting to conduct a survey following the recent floods whether sandbags prevented ingress of water into houses in roads that were flooded.

It might be more use to provide residents with waterproof storage crates ( i.e. plastic boxes without drainage holes) to store possessions or to stand furniture on above floor level. Whilst it is recognised that the Borough and County have a priority to protect essential utilities such as electricity substations or sewage pumping systems, nevertheless local residents should not merely be left to fend for themselves.

It should be noted that houses in Aymer Drive, Thorpe were only built about 40 years ago, and despite having solid concrete ground floors, the water percolated up through the floor due to the high water table.

4 Local Operational Centres - In Chertsey, St Peter’s Church offered its premises for distribution and a centre of operations and in Egham Hythe, St Paul’s Church was used as a command centre and provided refreshments, with sandbags being filled on the fore court of Magna Carta School which fortunately was closed for half term.

It would have been better if RBC had made Chertsey Hall in Heriot Road available although the normal caretaker staff should not be expected to act as prime co-ordinators to oversee the Community response for flood victims.

5 Local Leadership - Consideration should be given to the co-ordination of Flood
Volunteers, Flood Wardens and the statuary Emergency Services, including liaison with RBC, SCC the Police & Military. Groups such as the Churches, Volunteers, Good Neighbours, Food Banks and Local Residents Groups all have an important contribution to make in an emergency and such organisations often have better local knowledgethan the higher level authorities. However it would be helpful to have a well publicised strategy in place including a list of key personnel who are respected and willing to take on the Local Leadership Role in the affected communities.

It is suggested that these groups should meet annually with each other and their Councillors (SCC & RBC) together with representatives from the statuary authorities.

Long Term Solution

Every effort should be made to ensure the earlyimplementation of the River Thames Scheme (RTS) for Flood Alleviation from Datchet to Teddington. SCC & Local Authorities (eg RBC etc) should lobby strongly to change the formula used by DEFRA to take greater cognisance of the disruption to local businesses and damage to the transport infrastructure.

Chertsey channelsThis would allow Central Government to allocate more to the RTS and reduce the shortfall. The £256 million scheme ( 2009 price), at present has a short fall of approximately £120 million. In addition SCC & Local Authorities should make provision to fund the short fall over a 10 year period or actively seek third part income.

It should be recognised that the lower part of channel 2 of the RTS connects Thorpe Lakes with the River Thames on the north side of the M3 Motorway across the Burway Meadow. This channel would take the excess flood water from The Chertsey Bourne and The Abbey River and would thus prevent flooding in Chertsey town centre.

Malcolm S Loveday, Chairman, The Chertsey Society

 

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