2016 came in with the roar of a rather soggy lion right across the country. The terrible floods affecting the north of England have led me to reflect on the similar problems that Feniton has suffered over the years. When floods strike I’ve come to realise that one becomes very introspective, but what concerns me most is what happened in Feniton.
The New Year was greeted in Feniton by torrents of surface water coming off the fields and it was a real test of the various measures put in place around the village.
The results were mixed.
Phase 1 of the £1.6m flood alleviation scheme is virtually complete and water bypassed the two listed cottages at the entrance of the new village. Residents of Metcombe and Sweethams – who have suffered countless times over the years – were able to relax, although there was concern when the water rose to levels which looked like it would back up the pipe towards the cottages. In true community spirit, the residents of Sweethams are our latest volunteer flood wardens, as they now feel safe to leave their cottage at times of heavy rain.
Equally, the pipes which have been installed in Salisbury Avenue meant that bungalows built below the level of the road are now safe from flooding. Such a relief for residents there.
The hard work of flood wardens in the old part of the village, and the fact that drains had been recently cleared by Devon County Council, meant that only one cottage flooded there. It could have been so much worse.
Less successful was the works carried out by Wainhomes on the Winchester Park site.
Surface water poured around the attenuation tanks, straight into the Parish Council play area. The special surface under the swings is now full of silt and will have to be cleaned again (I’ve lost track of how many times this has had to be done and at what cost to the public purse). From there, it flooded the allotments (again) and poured under the gates into the drains. With a night of rain ahead, the flood wardens were out in force to slow the rate of flow such that the drains would be able to cope.
It was cold, miserable work.
The frustrating thing is that this is still happening at all, even after Wainhomes has built the 50 houses they were allowed. As is well known, Wainhomes failed initially to install attenuation tanks to help mitigate surface water run-off from their site. Another measure was for them to install swales – a system of ditches between the estate and the adjoining agricultural fields – to help store surface water.
When flood wardens and I looked at the swales over New Year to see how well they were coping, to our amazement they were virtually empty.
Were the swales built according to the specifications drawn up by Wainhomes’ consultants? Or is the design of the surface water drainage system substandard, as Feniton Parish Council suspects?
Either way we were amazed to see that the new bank between Station Road and the open space vacated by the temporary site office has been deliberately breached.
This irresponsible action has resulted in water being allowed to pour from the site down Station Road towards houses which have a long history of flooding.
As the Parish Council has long demanded, the whole surface water drainage system on Winchester Park will need to be looked at very carefully indeed.