Patience is growing thin … the continuing saga of Feniton flood alleviation scheme

The first documented evidence I’ve seen of flooding in Feniton is from Parish Council minutes of 1912. Since that time, the village has been beset with flooding issues and the ever-present threat of flooding, which leaves residents anxious and fearful when heavy rain is forecast.

20161121_123228This month marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating floods of 2008 which saw a number of households evacuated and resulted in the loss of all their possessions. As well as enormous distress at the time, and a legacy of uncertainty that causes villagers to be fearful each time it rains heavily, there was of course substantial costly damage to the village too.

The church was flooded to a considerable depth and was unable to be used while the building dried out and renovation works undertaken. The costs of refurbishing the fabric of the church alone ran to some £200,000.

The news that East Devon District Council had started working on the Feniton flood alleviation scheme was met with immense relief. Work started in 2013 and the scheme was given planning permission in 2015.

It is an immensely complex project as it involves a number of landowners, not least Network Rail.

And there’s the rub …

IMG_0164I had been hopeful that phase 3 of the scheme, that is the under-track crossing of the railway line, would happen this autumn and all the signs were that this was the case.

Work has been going on apace with EDDC’s Engineering and Legal Departments. Network Rail have signed the ‘Agreement in Principle’ which means that they are contracted to undertake the works for this section of the scheme. They are currently designing the under-track crossing and looking at dates for when they can close the line in order to carry out the works.

So far, so good …

However, the problem apparently is that works cannot be undertaken on the railway line during the summer (April to September), and I’m given to understand that there is insufficient time before April 2019 to complete the design and have it agreed by all parties.

It now looks as though the earliest these works can be undertaken is autumn 2019!

This means that we have at least another year of staring at the sky in fear of rainstorms … another year of calling out the flood wardens when the rain intensity alarm sounds … another year of desperately wishing we didn’t live in a flood-prone village with all the misery that that entails.

I have written to our MP, Neil Parish, as I understand that the incredibly slow speed at which Network Rail works is having an impact on flood alleviation schemes up and down the country.

Chairman of the Parish Council, Martyn Smith, has also written to Neil Parish and we are both asking him to bring his influence to bear on Network Rail to try and move the schedule forward so that we can offer the long-suffering people of Feniton a little respite – and indeed, a little hope – from the anxieties they currently face.

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BigLottery grant heading for Feniton!

Feniton Parish Council has been working hard on two separate projects to upgrade the play areas in the village.

Following a consultation with the children of the village carried out by East Devon District Council, parish councillors have been meeting play equipment suppliers to see how the views of the children can be translated into reality on both the QEII and Ely Close play areas.

As well as looking at options for the play areas, parish councillors have been sourcing funds for the upgrade.

Awards for AllThe most exciting news is that our bid for a BigLottery Awards for All grant was successful and we have recently heard that £10,000 will be heading to Feniton to swell the budget to make sure the play areas are the best they can be for the children of the village.

Other sources of funding are monies from recent development in the village, money from East Devon District Council to compensate for the loss of play equipment at the QEII when the flood scheme comes through that area, grants from County Councillor Phil Twiss’ Locality Budget and donations from the local community and local businesses.

Funds for the improvements to the QEII are now in place, but we need to be patient until the works to the flood scheme have been completed. It’s a frustrating time!

However, the Parish Council is keen for improvements to be made to Ely Close play area as well, and councillors are currently working on grant applications which, if successful, will see the complete refurbishment of this area.

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Environmental Health Officers are on the case!

flies on fly paper(2)Latest update from Environmental Health at East Devon District Council concerning the fly problem affecting some properties in the village:

Further to your report to us regarding high levels of flies at your property, I have detailed below an update regarding our investigations so far. We are sending this email to everyone who has contacted us as well as Susie Bond, your local councillor.

We received our first reports from a few Feniton residents concerning high numbers of flies around the third week in May which we investigated straight away and arranged visits to both residents and potential breeding grounds. At this stage we had only been contacted by a small number of residents who were predominately being affected by Common Housefly (CHF). For those residents who haven’t contacted Environmental Health before concerning this, CHF are probably the most versatile fly (hence the word ‘common’ in their title) and can develop within a number of rotting materials both inside and out. When they appear in large numbers and within a number of different properties, there may be a relatively large breeding ground close by, so we tend to look at farming where there is potential for breeding to take place within manure housed on site and within relatively close proximity of the residents.

We inspected the poultry sheds shortly after receiving the first fly reports in May and there was no evidence of a fly infestation or issues within the manure which would provide a good breeding ground. We kept in contact with residents over the next few weeks and levels did drop for a period of time at nearly all of the properties. We were not able to confirm where the breeding ground was over this period, but it did appear to coincide with some muck spreading in the surrounding fields.

Since then, the closest shed to residents has been empty for a number of weeks (mostly all of July) and after receiving new reports during mid to late July, more inspections were carried out at sheds further afield to try to identify a breeding ground and again, we found no evidence of a fly infestation within these buildings.

After speaking with more residents during this period, it was ascertained that a high number of flies had emerged during a period of time when more muck spreading had taken place and since then, we have made contact with farms intending to spread manure and given advice regarding how best to minimise problems. Unfortunately, due to the hot temperatures, some manure had been stock piled for a period of time as the ground has been too hard to plough it in. We are hopeful this advice will now improve the situation.

FlyAs it stands at the moment, we would be grateful for updates on fly levels as well as any evidence you have collected for us so far, e.g. fly papers which show a snap shot of what you are experiencing in your homes or flies which you have knocked down over a certain period of time and we would be grateful if they could be posted to us. Unfortunately we do not have staff availability to collect these at the moment. Any evidence (including fly papers) should be placed inside a clear bag, similar to a food bag with a zip seal and your details written on the front which should include your name and address, along with details of how long it took to collect the flies. Please mark for my attention and send to the postal address below. This evidence has always helped us in the past, as it can show a link between the source and the resident’s home; if we can capture a physical picture using the papers, along with details of dates, etc., we can link that in with spreading in the area or an issue elsewhere.

We always take on board information provided by residents as they are usually best placed to know what is going on in their area and this is how links can sometime be made. Any information on this can be referred to me by email.

Lastly, I would be grateful if you could copy in any responses to the main Environmental Health email address environmentalhealth@eastdevon.gov.uk as I am out of the office next week and they can pass on any relevant information to colleagues in my absence.

Address to send the fly papers is: Environmental Health Department, East Devon District Council, Knowle, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 8HL

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