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.
This 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 …
I 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.