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Flooding Chaos - Still No Action One Year On 

Residents are still waiting for action on flood-alleviation schemes in Kenilworth, a year after floods devastated the town.

Rivers and streams across Warwickshire burst their banks 12 months ago on 8 August. 

While Coventry had its heaviest downpour this century this time last year, the three inches of rain in a few hours was starting to become a regular thing in Mid-Warwickshire.

Roads between Kenilworth, Leamington and Warwick were closed. Warwickshire Fire and Rescue had to cope with five times the usual number of calls and many people were mopping up their homes.

It came just a year after the Easter Floods of 1998 that killed five people across the Midlands and was one of the worst civil emergencies that many can remember.

Action was promised after both floods, but a much-talked about Environment Agency scheme in Kenilworth has still not been agreed, let alone started. 

Andy King, the town’s MP, has threatened to shame the Environment Agency in Parliament if it tries to pull out the scheme.

In a separate move, Warwick District Council has announced it is put to aside £313,000 for schemes in the Leamington suburb of Lillington, Ashow village and the Bates Memorial Field in Kenilworth. These still need the approval of the full council, and have yet to be started.

Work on a Cubbington scheme is already agreed and underway.

A council report in to the latest deluge described many of its own drains as ‘hydraulically inadequate’.

But progress at Leamington town hall is somewhat faster than the flood alleviation scheme in Kenilworth where residents recall the Finham Brook breaking its banks four times in recent years with flooding of homes in the Mill End area.

An idea to recreate the mere around Kenilworth Castle had been floated for some time, but later scaled down, and talks continue involving the Environment Agency, English Heritage, Andy King MP and local councils.

But progress is slow, and no scheme has been agreed, even though work was supposed to begin earlier this year.

Cllr Dave Shilton, who was mayor at the time of the 1999 floods and helped residents and council staff in the middle of the night said:

“We have had several meetings about this but really people want to see something done. I think The Environment Agency and English Heritage are treading on each other’s toes.

“We want it hurried up and want them to get on with it. There is no point them blaming reach other if we have another flood while we are waiting for them to get on with it.

“The people of Mill End, Northvale Close and Forge Road are waiting with baited breath for something to happen.

“We first heard they were going to start work this year, but then there is talk of holding everything up for archaeological digs. Kenilworth Town Council has been pushing them to get on with it.

“We have to work with them, but frankly I wonder when it is ever going to happen. What are they going to say if there is another flood while they are talking about this?”

The Tanyard Stream that flows under the town centre and northwards to meet the Finham Book at Mill End flooded many homes along its route.

The plan revolves around building a reservoir at the back of the castle to hold water in times of floods to control the flow along the Finham Brook and then to gradually let water back in as the rains die down

The Environment Agency launched its Floodline Service (tel 0845 988 1188) and set out on a publicity drive with the phrase: Floods Don’t Just to Happen to Other People.

Met with derision by those who had suffered, the campaign was criticised by those waiting for action, but found agencies prevaricating on what should happen next.

While residents were chasing officials for action, they saw posters going up telling them how to prepare for the worst.

But there cannot be many people better preared than residents of certain parts of Warwickshire who know only too well the how to protect their belongings and who to contact following heavy rain

Kenilworth mayor Graham Windybank feels work is finally underway and the news is not so bleak. He said:

“The district council has put money into flood alleviation and this is good news. There have been many meetings to sort out what can be done.”

He said of the Kenilworth Castle programme:

“The money is in place and there is a scheme, but there is a possibility of a delay if it affects the ruins of the castle and that would be disappointing for people waiting for action.

“It has taken longer than some people would like but we have to make sure these are done properly, but I understand why people are concerned with the delay.”

John McGowan, assistant to Warwick District Council's chief executive, explained that work is about to get underway and there has been a lot of investigations to get this far.

He said:

"These are important schemes and the engineers have to dot the 'I's and cross the 'T's and check the details of the scheme.

"We have put some money in, and had to take money from other schemes, but if they get the approval of the full council then we will go out to tender with them. 

"But certainly the will is there, and we are keen to get on with the job."

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CWN / Politics / Warwick District Council / 07 Aug 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM